Newly Elected Co-Management Committee Pledge to Protect Sierra Leone’s Sherbro River Estuary

Newly Elected Co-Management Committee Pledge  to Protect Sierra Leone’s Sherbro River Estuary
February 10, 2020 9:37 am News

By Fatmata Katta


Sierra Leone’s Sherbro River Estuary (SRE) is rich in biodiversity, including turtles, manatees, sharks and crocodiles. Designated as one of the country’s four marine protected areas, the region is also reported to host about 58% of Sierra Leone’s total mangroves, and other coastal habitats in the region include beautiful sandy beaches, rocky shores and mudflat. However, uncontrolled human activities, such as excessive cutting of mangrove wood, mining, and destructive methods of fishing, coupled with the effects of climate change, are threatening the SRE’s ecosystem and the livelihood of the local people.

To address these and other environmental challenges, USAID’s West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change Program (WA BiCC) Program and the National Protected Areas Authority (NPAA) organized a workshop Jan. 20–23 in the Bo region of Sierra Leone to set up a Co-Management Committee (CMC) focused on reversing the current trend of ecosystem degradation and species loss in the SRE. This workshop builds on WA BiCC’s work in the SRE, including past field mapping exercises, in which a focus has been ensuring that community members are key stakeholders in its protection and management.

The workshop brought together key stakeholders, including paramount chiefs (PCs) of all the chiefdoms that make up the SRE landscape; representatives of local councils, government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs); civil society organizations (CSOs); and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The elected committee (also called the implementing body) consists of 11 executive members drawn from 10 chiefdoms and the municipalities that make up the SRE, with a chairperson to guide the affairs of the institution.

The SRE CMC also includes the advisory board (made up of the 10 paramount chiefs who are the custodians of the SRE and the local councils); the supervisory body (made up of the NPAA and other government MDAs, such as the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency; and observers (made up of CSOs, NGOs, and other organizations).

This newly established community-based governance structure came to fruition after 9 months of intensive stakeholder consultations and community mobilization processes, in which WA BiCC played a key role in funding and leading. The executive members are expected to work closely with the NPAA and other relevant MDAs to support the implementation of a Co-Management Plan developed to promote the sustainable management of mangrove forests and other coastal resources through customary authority, local rulemaking, and local-level enforcement.

A group of people standing together.
Committee photo: Newly elected Community Management Committee members. Front row, left to right: Adama Yambasu–Program Officer, Umaru L Koroma–Chairman, Augusta Ashun–Deputy Chairman, and Ibrahim A Sesay–Secretary General. Back row, left to right: Mohamed Kanji Daramy–Deputy Program Officer, Agnes Tucker–Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Sidique Konneh–Deputy Secretary-General, Jonathan B Margai–Public Relations Officer, Abdul N Manasary–Deputy Public Relations Officer/Gender Officer, and Bashiru Miowo–Financial Secretary.


The first day of the workshop included an overview of the Co-Management Plan journey so far; opportunities and challenges for the SRE; roles and responsibilities of the NPAA, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and others in the promotion and implementation of the SRE Co-Management Plan; and lessons learned from the implementation of the SRE. The CMC members were trained on relevant laws and regulations related to MPAs, wildlife/CITES, and fisheries.

PC Robert Coker Selilolo Papapwe III, representing all PCs from the 10 chiefdoms, said he and his fellow chiefs were lucky to have WA BiCC working with them to save their resources, particularly mangroves.

“We have a series of challenges, as not many of us understand the importance of the mangroves. There is every need, therefore, to have this workshop and to protect our mangroves in reducing climate change effects in our communities,” Papapwe III said.

The elected chairperson of the CMC, Rev. Umaru Lahai Koroma, thanked participants and the paramount chiefs for his election, noting that he will give his best to meet the expectations of his appointment.

“We will work as a team for the good of the SRE, as we all know the danger that will befall us if we do not protect our environment,” he said.

In her endorsement statement to the newly elected executives, Melrose Kargbo, Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, called on the executive members to represent their people well.

“We all know the amount of human activities taking place within the SRE, and it is good that the committee comprises inhabitants of the estuary who know their own problems,” she said. “The cutting of mangroves must stop and it is the responsibility of the committee to let the people understand the dangers that will befall them if they continue the indiscriminate cutting of mangroves.”

Following the elections and endorsement of executive members of the SRE CMC, an assessment was conducted to identify the capacity needs of the newly formed institution in governance, communication, resource mobilization, and management. The capacity action plan resulting from this assessment will guide WA BiCC, NPAA, and other MDAs on required actions to enhance the capacity of the SRE CMC.

As a next step, WA BiCC will work with the NPAA to draft the committee’s constitution.

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