Sierra Leone: The Oswald Hanciles Column

DEFORESTATION LEADS TO YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT AND DANGEROUS POLITICAL CONFLICTS

"According to data taken from 2000 to 2005, Nigeria (has lost) 55.7 percent of their primary forests... Nigeria has the highest rate of deforestation in the world... From 1990 to 2010, Nigeria halved their forest cover... The annual rate of deforestation in Nigeria is 3.5%...

The combination of extremely high deforestation rates, increased temperatures and decreasing rainfall... are all contributing to the desertification of the country. The carbon emissions from deforestation is also said to account for 87% of the total carbon emissions of the country". (Source: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations). When I was in Nigeria in 2018, the executive director of the premier green NGO, the Nigeria Conservation Foundation, Aminu Kanu, was quoted in local media as saying that Nigeria has lost over 95% of its primary forests. My closest friend in Nigeria, now a communications and outreach consultant for the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) sent a release to me on World Environment Day, June 5, 2019 - raising alarms about rapid deforestation in southeast Nigeria.

Is that information relevant to us in Sierra Leone? It is! Let's look at the situation in Nigeria a bit more.

Over 95% of the export of Nigeria - and its GNP - is petroleum. The economics, and politics, of Nigeria, hinges on the export of petroleum. All the fierce competition among the political elite of Nigeria is to get a bigger bite of the petroleum wealth. Nigeria is still ranked among the top ten poorest countries in the world, and over 60 percent of its people still live in poverty. So, what will happen when the importing countries - like the United States - have lower demand for petroleum as man-made Climate Change realities force them to change to 'green energy' and there is less easy money flowing into Nigeria?

Including the frightening situation of rapid deforestation in Nigeria, there is also accelerated desertification in Nigeria. The tropical rainforests are being speedily lost in the South of Nigeria, the desert is rushing to the South from the North of Nigeria: what will the about 200 million people in Nigeria do as man-made Climate Change worsen their scary environmental scenario?

SIERRA LEONE: MEANING OF DEFORESTATION

Sierra Leone is different from Nigeria only because of its land size (47,000 square kilometers of land to Nigeria's 900,000 square kilometers of land), and its population size (7 million people to Nigeria's 200 million)... and the lack of an advancing desert (but, with chilling vast swathes of its land transformed from forests into grassland all over the country, especially in the Northern Province).

Robinson Sesay Snr. (a.k.a. Big Brother) posted in the SLAVE SHIP-FREEDOM SHIP Group 4-Youth thus: "The alarming signs (of environmental degradation) are clearly being seen, even in Makeni where I live. For instance, my childhood neighbourhood was swampy; now no water around absolutely; and we are yet to see the rain. If checks are not put in place, this crisis... risks million of lives (being prematurely lost). Progressives (should) concentrate on matters of nature, not party politics".

Edward O. Conteh, Jnr. also writing in the SLAVE SHIP-FREEDOM SHIP Group 4-Youth forum, posted these words: "You go to the North and see the devastation going on in timber logging. That policy is as crude as the black man's civilization. No more forest in that part of the country, thereby worsening (ecological, agricultural, and economic... ) situation... ". There is reported to be intensified logging in Koinadugu and Karene districts in the Northern Province by largely Chinese companies. The last remaining forests in the Northern Province are only left in those two districts. It appears as if some people want to completely destroy what remains for the barely manageable livelihoods of the majority of already poverty-stricken people in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone.

If you have any sense of environmental degradation, you would cry when you drive through districts in the Northern Province - like Kambia, Bombali, and Tonkolili. You see largely grass!! What does it mean?

It means that with the forest cover gone, the soils have been made largely sterile. There is less agriculture yield for those who choose to do farming. Most youth choose not to continue farming on largely sterile soils. They migrate to the cities - Makeni, Freetown, Bo, Koidu, Kono, Kenema. But, especially Freetown.

In Freetown, they squat on any land available. They cram in slums. They engage in largely petty trading. They spend what little money they earn on fine clothes. They 'produce' babies. They are producing children who have to live tomorrow as adults; but they are living today as if there is no tomorrow. The National Medium-Term Development Plan (NMTDP) of the Bio Administration published in January, 2019, states that Sierra Leone has one of the fastest population growth rates in the world - at 4.3 percent growth rate between 2004 and 2016, the population of Sierra Leone spiked from 5 million people to 7 million people within about a 15 year period. The governing elite appear oblivious to this connection between deforestation in the country, spiralling population growth and massive youth unemployment... AND the politics of the country.

Apparently, Bintumani III did not make these interconnections: loss of forest cover leads to increased migration to cities; youth in cities have higher expectations and demand more from government; but in cities, they produce very little. Their expectations are fuel in the fire of political disenchantment of youth.

The educated elite are obsessed with getting the best jobs in cities. Jobs they expect government to miraculously create. Sierra Leone gets almost all its foreign currency through exports of diamonds, iron ore, titanium, bauxite... . Over the past fifty years, foreign currency earned by Sierra Leone have not been used to create industries; not even agro-processing facilities. It would be used to import largely consumables - from imported orange juice, rice, toothpicks, clothes... to cars, and marble for mansions by the rich. All the intense political conflict between the two parties that have governed Sierra Leone since 1957, the APC and SLPP have been competition for government jobs; the poisoned and ferocious political conflict between Southeasterners and Northwesterners... have been over competition to get jobs in government to buy these consumables. There is almost no political competition between the APC and SLPP over ideas to generate sustainable wealth. The tropical rainforests are taken as an infinite resource - like our diamonds and titanium. They are not.

As environmentalists like us write unceasingly about looming man-made Climate Change and the nightmarish scenarios being predicted by leading scientists and credible scientific institutions around the globe, the bureaucratic elite and political elite cocooned in their air-conditioned offices and posh homes in the mountains of Freetown act as if the urgency we write about is far removed from their comfort zones. We have to raise awareness on these interconnections before there are more conflicts and social and political explosions all over Africa; a relapse to a civil war in Sierra Leone.

At the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, Nigeria's president, Retired General Muhammadu Buhari, said that environmental degradation in Northern Nigeria have been a primary cause for the Boko Haram insurgency there; and a catalyst for the violence in Northern Cameroon, and Southern Chad. Credible scientists are predicting a dramatic increase in violent conflicts in Africa, and wars, as man-made Climate Change forces mass movements of people.

Africa must go into Green Preventative War Mode... .! That's why I have been making this 'war cry': "$2trillion annually for man-made Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation measures in Africa from the richest nations of the world". No country in Africa can mobilize the financial resources necessary to take timely mitigation and adaptation measures when man-made Climate Change gains momentum. Africa is not asking for aid. Africa has to demand Reparations for over three hundred years of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Another thing: demand for equity in the global economic arena can help to prevent worse case scenarios for Africa. My $2trillion demand from the richest nations of the world to Africa may appear outlandish. But, it's the best option out for Africa. It's not a panacea, but, it would enhance billions of trees being planted by Sierra Leoneans and Nigerians, and other Africans; including other green measures to be taken.

To the media: widely spread these green messages I put out . Sierra Leone, and Africa, are on a precipice.

On the Christiane AMANPOUR talk show on CNN, on

June 4, 2019, the now world-famous 16 year old Swedish environmental crusader, Greta Thunberg, typically lashes out at adults in control of the politics and economics of the world who are "... stealing our future and selling it for profit". The soft-spoken Swede warns: "We will not let you get away with it anymore". We, the greens, the enlightened, will not let you get away with it anymore! The almost entirely over 50 years of age political class in Africa - including the President of Sierra Leone, Retired Brigadier Maada Bio- are being warned to ride the green wave or they are certain to be swept aside by a 'green youth-tsunami' building up. That's my message for WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY - June 5, 2019.

I pause,

Oswald Hanciles, The Guru.

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