The Ministry of the Environment through its numerous community based organizations has commenced the National Tree Planting project in various communities across the country.
The project is aimed at planting 5 million trees in approximately 14,706 hectares of degraded lands and coastal areas in the entire country.
The project is expected to last for four years and the planting of trees will be done in 5 Phases. Phase 1, which commences this year, will end in June 2021 with 1.2 million trees planted. Phases 2 to 5 will start in May 2021 and end in June 2024 and 3.8 Million trees will be planted.
It could be recalled that on 5th June 2020 President Julius Maada Bio commenced a national tree planting exercise and launched the National Tree Planting Project to minimize impact of climate change and fulfil commitment in the country's Medium-Term National Development Plan.
While launching the project President Bio said the project is critical for various reasons as it will increase forest cover, enhance the capacity of carbon sequestration and biodiversity, and help reduce the adverse impact of climate change on the country.
"It will prevent the displacement of populations caused by flooding, as the trees will curtail water from heavy downpours; it will reduce early and erratic rainfall patterns leading reduced flooding and wind throw hazards. The national tree planting exercise will provide other ecosystems support functions such as water conservation; it will help to combat soil erosion along hills and slopes and aid soil conservation in agricultural areas; and finally the project will contribute to addressing several UN SDGs, the AU Agenda 2063, and Cluster 7 of our country's Medium-Term National Development Plan," he said adding that no one organization should apply for segments of this project in more than 2 chiefdoms of the same district; no one organization should be awarded contracts to provide or plant more than 10,000 seedlings; CBOs/NGOs should only be awarded contracts for areas in which they have worked before or have personnel who have abundant knowledge of the local area; only persons ordinarily resident in their respective chiefdoms shall be employed for the tree planting activity," he said.
The Ministry of The Environment in collaboration with the Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone, (EPA-SL) and the Forestry Department over the weekend embarked on a joint visit to various planting sites to get firsthand information on the ongoing planting process.
From Luawa chiefdom in the Kailahun district to Koya chiefdom in Port Loko district, Bonthe and others constrictors have massively planted seedlings of various varieties.
Paramount Chief of Jawei Chiefdom Kailahun district, P.C. Musa Ngumbugla Kallon commended government for implementing the Tree Planting Project,adding that the project has provided job opportunity for many young people who have been languishing in his chiefdom.
P C Kallon further noted that the tree planting project will ameliorate many environmental challenges the country now face.
On the issue of sustainability and security of the project in communities Paramount Chief of Nongowa Chiefdom, P.C. Sadiq Kapuwa expressed delight and promised to lend his fullest support for a successful implementation of the project.
He called on his subjects to rally around the Ministry of Environment to ensure that the tree planting project becomes a huge success.
He said, as custodian of the land, he would provide adequate support for the planting of tees as may be required.
P.C. Bai Shebora Kasanya the III of Bombali Sebora Chiefdom and P.C. Massa Yalie Antham of Gbanti chiefdom in the Bombali district both commended the president's stance on environmental protection. They expressed their willingness to work with the Ministry of The Environment to make the tree planting project a successful one.
The village head of Pendegumahun village, Samami Section, Kakua Chiefdom, Chief Samuel Kpatewa commended His Excellency the President and stated that his community was looking up to such an opportunity. He stated that his community had outlawed the production of charcoal and cutting of timber which he said were posing a threat to the sustainability of the environment of Sierra Leone. He assured the Ministry of Environment of his community's continued support for the smooth implementation of the National Tree Planting Project.
The Assistant Director of Disaster Management at the Environment Protection Agency, Mr Valentine Sualley stated the significance of planting trees in the area of disaster prevention and mitigation. He noted that most of the environmental disasters encountered in various communities in Sierra Leone were as a result of the massive and indiscriminate manner in which we have depleted our forest cover. He further stated that even though some of the activities that are responsible for the depletion of our forests are livelihood activities, but that such activities must not be conducted at the detriment of the environment. He called on Sierra Leoneans to support the vision of His Excellency the President for the protection of the environment.
The Assistant Director of Forestry Department, Mr George Rogers stated that the trees that were being supplied to contractors would help in the recovery of our lost Bio-Diversity as well as restore our depleted forest cover. He also stated that the trees had been carefully selected to include economic trees and fire resistant trees. He called upon government to provide for the recruitment of more forest officers to monitor the distribution of seedlings and planting of trees.
Notwithstanding some of the challenges encountered by some of the project contractors at the initial phase, it is hoped that the project would go a long way to replenish most of our battered forest cover in various parts of the country.