The first of 1,818,540 trees was planted in Sierra Leone on 3 August 2016 across vital water catchment zones as part of the President’s Recovery Priorities’ drive to ensure water security and improve its access to the population in Freetown.
Deforestation has emerged as one of Sierra Leone’s main man-made environmental issues, with an estimated 3,000 hectares being cleared each year, and over 87% of the original forest area already converted. People cut down trees to make charcoal and for firewood. Furthermore slash and burn agriculture, stone mining and the construction of homes in water catchment areas all contribute to the country’s water shortage.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and Ministry of Water Resources are working with partners such as the Environmental Protection Agency on a National Tree Planting Drive which will increase awareness of the importance of trees and adequate forest cover, and encourage tree planting to protect water catchment areas as well as reduce flooding, erosion and other environmental degradation. Existing forests and woodlands that have been devastated over the years, will be restocked with 1,818,540 indigenous and exotic fast growing trees.
The Minister of Water Resources, Momodu Maligi says that widespread encroachment into water catchment areas has severely reduced the efficacy of water catchment zones and calls upon local communities to join in the environmental protection effort : « Tackling the water shortage requires the support of local communities to prevent deforestation and protect our water catchment zones. Deforestation of the water catchment zones causes soil to erode and run into the Guma dam, reducing its capacity. The lack of forest cover also increases evaporation of the water in the dam. Water is life and we all have a duty to preserve it. »
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