When the trees go what then ?
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Jambawai, Sam Musa. 1989. When the trees go what then ? . Spore 19. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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When the trees go what then ?Sam Musa Jambawai Sam Musa- Jambawa has been a professionsl forester for over 20 yearse before being appointed Programme of Officer for the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone. One of Sierra Leone's major problems is...
Sam Musa Jambawai Sam Musa- Jambawa has been a professionsl forester for over 20 yearse before being appointed Programme of Officer for the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone. One of Sierra Leone's major problems is the progressive deforestation that has taken place in the past half century or so. The country was 75% covered with rich tropical rain forest 50 years ago, but now only about 4% cover remains. People are beginning to ask what will happen if there are no trees left? The main reason for this devastation is the shifting cultivation practised in rural areas by our farmers. They slash and burn, cultivate for two or three years, tnen move on. While our population was small this did not cause severe problems: in fact, at low population density, the technique is sensible and effective. But with the growth of large cash crop plantations (oil palm, cocoa, coffee), and the pressure of increasing population growth, the land available has diminished and farmers have to return to the same area too quickly and eventually forest disappears because it is not given the opportunity to regenerate. Another cause of deforestation lies in the activities of commercial and individual woodcutters around Freetown and the other main cities. Cutters leave the hillsides bare, and do not replant. The dangers inherent in this are great. Along the coast the annual rainfall can amount to as much as 2000-3000mm. Heavy rain flushes material down these bare hillsides into the river beds, they silt up and flooding can result. The absence of cover also means that along the coast, particularly around Freetown, high sea winds cause considerable structural damage to houses which were previously protected by stands of trees. The Sierra Leone Conservation Society aims to prevent further deforestation, principally by alerting public consciousness to its dangers. The diminishing of the fallow period in rural areas means the land does not recuperate, and yields are low as a result. And the deforestation also means that animal and plant species unique to the rain forest are being lost. People must be made to realize what is happening, so that there can be some chance of stopping and reversinq the effects. We are trying to do this by talkinq to people on the radio, by holding slideshows to demonstrate what has happened in other countries that have lost all their forest cover, by stressing the dangers and the damage that have resulted. Our project is aimed at three levels: schools, policy makers, and the general public. In schools, we are starting Nature Clubs,, which involve the children in learning about the environment and ecology, and teach them how they can help alleviate the effects of deforestation. We try to persuade policy-makers that their decisions can and should be development-orientated, and must be properly prepared, or they will be disastrous; when signing contracts or engaging in development programmes these constraints must be applied right from the beginning, not as afterthoughts. The general public must be persuaded to reduce the amount of firewood th ey burn by using improved stoves. We also assist research projects when people come to look at environmental issue, we give them ou assistance, provide them with logistic support, put them in contact with the right people, and take them to see places where the problems are most acute. For the future, the Sierra Leone Conservation Society plans to go further in the restoration of areas that have been destroyed by deforestation by actively encouraging replanting in selected areas - particularly those that are most vulnerable. Secondly, we aim to go into restocking these areas with wildlife, which can be used by the people. As a Society, we do not believe in preservation for its own sake, but rather we think resources should be managed in such away thatthey can be sustainable. There is no doubt that management of such resources can only succeed if the local people are involved in projects right from the start and can see a long-term benefit to themselves. What the Sierra Leone Conservation Society is trying to do is to attempt to instil into people an attitude of sustainable development. We are only two years old, but the support we are receiving and the response of our people is already encouraging. But as with any project of this sort, funds are often the limiting factor and the Society is actively seeking funding for its education, research and restocking work from within the country and from overseas The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily those of CTA.
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