World Wetlands Day 2003: Sierra Leone



World Wetlands Day 2003 in Sierra Leone



From: Emmanuel Alieu []
Sent: 28 February 2003 15:06

Dear Mr. Blasco

The World Wetlands Day (2003) Celebrations in Sierra Leone entailed a series of activities including 4 30 minute radio and 2 30-minute TV pulling resource persons from the Sierra Leone Ports Authority, a female artisanal fish folk staff of the Fisheries and Marine Resources Division, Forestry Division, NGOs and Civil Society.

These programmes were aired 3 weeks before February 2nd and one week thereafter.

A day trip to the Aberdeen creek by the NGO Conservation Society of Sierra Leone involving school kids (Nature clubs of Sierra Leone) was effected on Sunday the 2nd February. The climax of the activity was a seminar held on Tuesday 4th February. Main participants included the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO); Christian Childrens Fund (CCF); Artesanal Fisheries and Community Development Project (AFCOD); Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography (IMBO); Land and Water Development Division of the Ministry of Agriculture; Agric. Communications Unit (ACU) Sierra Leone Association of NGOs (SLANGO) College of Medicine and Allied Health Services (COMAS) and Njala University College.

We utilized Government funds to the tune of USD530.00 to cover this low key ceremony. We look forward to a grand celebration next year.

Regards., E.K. Alieu , Director of Forests.






In the year 2001 the Sierra Leone National Wetlands Committee was formed with the view to formulating National Wetlands Policies and the consequent implementation of Projects related to wetlands within a national context. This will secure sustainable wetlands development in the country.

More than half of the worlds population depend directly or indirectly on wetlands ecosystems for providing water for drinking, irrigation, hydro power, industry and transport. Wetlands areas have been under pressure from pollution, armed conflict, development, deforestation, Climate change, mining and agriculture. Despite many of the common problems faced by wetlands communities around the globe each region is unique and has a complex array of social and ecological pressures.

In celebrating the World Wetlands Day, February 4 2003, this Seminar was held to create awareness of the issues relating to wetlands ecosystems in Sierra Leone and to find a way forward for sustainable wetland development and management.

The main objectives of the Seminar were as follows:

1. To promote the conservation and sustainable development of wetlands areas for the wellbeing of wetlands communities.

2. To sensitize and create awareness about the role of wetlands ecosystems in providing goods and services particularly as reservoir for water supply and food security.

3. To brainstorm in order to find the way forward for sustainable wetlands management.

The Ramsar Convention has defined wetlands as a wide variety of habitats such as salt marches, mangroves, and sea grass beds including coral reefs and other marine areas no deeper than six meters at low tide as well as human-made wetlands such as waste water treatment ponds and reservoirs.

2. Programme for the Seminar

The one day Seminar was held on the 4th February, 2003 at the Conference Room of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (RMIII). The seminar was divided into the Opening Session, where the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security delivered the keynote address and a discussion session where brief but thought provoking presentations were made by various personalities.

Summary of Statements and presentation made are presented below:

3. Chairman's Opening Remarks

· The Chairman, Mr. Ansu Tucker, Senior Assistant Secretary MAFFS welcomed participants and talked about Sierra Leone's participation in the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971 out of which Sierra Leone became a member in December 1999.

· He recognised and appreciated the value of wetlands throughout the country, adding that wetlands help in stabilizing micro climate, revenue generation from shipping and private Boats, traditional role of wetlands and as a source of fish protein for human consumption.

· He however stressed the need to protect wetlands and finally declared the seminar opened.

4. Purpose and expected outcome of Seminar - By E.K. Alieu

· Brief but thought provoking papers will be presented followed by general discussion on the topics presented.

· Each participant should be an Ambassador of wetlands in the institution represented.

· Brainstorming by participants to come up with reliable project proposals to be sent to Ramsar secretariat and other donors for funding.

· That one meeting per year is not be enough; frequent meetings of this nature should be held every year and be replicated in the provinces where some communities have traditional ties to wetlands.

5. Keynote address by Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security

· In his address the Minister pointed out that wetlands of various types and sizes occupy about two thirds of the earth's surface making them too conspicuous to be easily ignored by mankind.

· That the importance of wetlands geographically, economically, politically, traditionally and culturally make them in dispensable to our respective life sustaining activities.

· He reminded the participants about the intrinsic values of wetlands which underscores the need to continuously protect them, including global transport services, food, ecotourism etc.

· The Minister cited the following arable wetlands in Sierra Leone as main contributors to food security if properly cultivated: Inland Valley Swamps - 690,000ha; Bolilands 145,000ha Mangrove Swamps - 200,000ha; Riverine - 130,000ha and grasslands.

· That environmental degradation problems associated with food production in the wetlands is relatively less than in the uplands which are prone to soil erosion, leaching of nutrients, wild fires and over cultivation problems.

· The Honourable Minister expressed the ministry's gratitude and appreciation over the presence of all the participants to support the ministry to observe World Wetlands Day which happened to fall on 2nd February every year.

· Finally the Minister strongly supported that brain-storming on the values and threats to wetlands could result in the formulation of appropriate mitigating measures to ensure that we attain sustainable development through the wise use of our wetlands.


(a) Economic Value of Wetlands - By E.K. Alieu, Director of Forests

· Generation of revenue through Port handling charges and Custom duties.
· Generation of Hydro-electric Power through the 24 hydro electric power potential sites nationwide.
· Fishing industry in Sierra Leone contribute about 6% to GDP.
· Wetlands facilitate salt production in Fogbo and Samu.
· Useful in recreation and eco-tourism.
· Provision of water for both domestic and industrial consumption.
· Rice Production.
· Traditions like baptism and other ceremonies are carried out in wetlands, hence wetlands uphold traditions.
· Also useful in mining Gold, Diamonds, Rutile etc.

b. Wetlands and Socio Cultural Values - by H R S Mohammed, Deputy Director of Forests

· According to him, wetlands are usually damp and poorly drained areas up to the sea.
· Wetlands are important in rice and vegetable production as well as the production of shrimps, Oysters and fish etc for human consumption.
· Source of fuel and raw materials.
· Source of dyes, wrapping papers and wine from wetlands.
· By laws to carryout fishing at certain wetlands at specific times will promote conservation.
· Streams are used for certain secret societies.

c. Major Threats to the wetlands of Sierra Leone by Sheku Mansaray, Conservator of Forests and AAF Conteh, Ag. Asst. Director of Forests

· Over exploitation and unsustainable harvesting of wetlands resources such as illegal use of unauthorized fishing nets with small mesh sizes.
· Use of Explosives/Dynamites etc. to kill not only fish but other marine life.
· Developmental activities like construction, uncontrolled Tourist regulation affect etc. marine life.
· Population, deforestation, mining, Agriculture and peat harvesting also constitute threats to wetlands.
· Fire hazards also threatens life in the wetlands.
· The creation of dams for hydro electric power generation is also a threat.
· Massive removal of mangrove wood.

d. Wetlands in industrical development - by Lamin Souma - Senior Engineer- SALWACO

· Mr. Souma defined wetland as a piece of land/place occupied by water eg. Ponds, Lakes, Streams, Spring, Rivers, Creeks, Valleys etc.
· Wetlands provide sustainable water supply for domestic, industrial development and Hydro-electric Power.
· Wetlands promote eco-tourism, Agriculture and Fisheries depended on wetlands for their source of water.
· He also spoke about threats to wetlands including deforestation, dumping of industrial wastes and human exploitation in the form of water supply, Agriculture, Fisheries, Tourism etc.
· The way forward to sustainable wetland development include: awareness raising, Private Sector investment, development of policy guidelines on the use and management of wetlands in Sierra Leone.


· There are many certain wetlands sites out of the 66 already identified with peculiar characteristics. For instance at Conakry -Dee birds from Europe converged there to escape the harsh winter season in Europe. Also Magbafth wetlands require serious attention as a result of agricultural intervention
causing the wetlands to dry out.

· There is need to categorise all wetland sites in the country but according to Dr. Bah of Njala University College, he has identified some wetland sites which were categorized into mangroves, swamp grasslands, Swamp Cultivation and other swamps.

· Dr. Bah's work on wetlands is divided into 4 main chapters such as: the introduction; methodology, Wetland Values and Discussion of each of the 66 Wetland Sites with maps for each of site.

· The committee should recorgnise the importance of Dr. Bah's work which needed to be completed and focused.

· According to Dr. Bah, a student in the Biological Science Department, NUC is undertaking a case study of the role of wetlands in Mamuntha Mayosoh communities.

· The committee agreed that a similar session be held, inviting Dr. Bah to present a paper on his work relating the 66 wetland sites he had categorized including their management.

· Replanting of highly deforested mangrove areas was recommended.

· Field trips could be undertaken by the wetlands committee to visit some of the peculiar wetland sites like Conakry -Dee, Mamuntha Mayorsoh and Magbafth.

· A communiqué from the national wetlands committee, through the radio be made to create awareness about the importance of protecting our wetlands.

· That a letter be written to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural development, informing Chiefdom authorities about the wise use of wetlands in their various localities.

· Since there are various parties (NGOs) working with wetlands in the country, coordination of various activities in order to harmonise ideas in addressing issues related to wetlands should be a priority.

· At the end of the deliberations, the Vote of Thanks was moved by Mr. Alusine Fofanah, the Regional Forests Officer, Western Area, who was the rappateur for the Seminar.

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