We are a group of journalists, filmmakers, conservationists, urban planners, scientists, policy makers, health professionals, and community groups working to support environmental resilience across the Freetown Peninsula.
Our goal is to highlight environmental sustainability + climate change through information, engagement, and storytelling while empowering local communities to take action.
Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, is located on a peninsula on the country’s western coast. Extending out into the the Atlantic Ocean, the Freetown (Western Area) Peninsula comprises a coastline made up of beaches, estuaries and mangroves, and a deep water port in the eastern end of the capital. With the ocean to the west, a lush mountainous landscape, rich in biodiversity and natural resources, provides the backdrop looking inland.
The Freetown peninsula is the most populous and developed part of the country. As the population has grown, efforts to update its infrastructure have stalled, leaving its resources, both physical and environmental, under great strain. What was once a region rich in marine and forest resources, is now at risk from over fishing, water pollution, illegal logging, and soil erosion. The country’s environmental protection framework is weak and poorly enforced, and for many, the country’s waters and forest are their only source of income and nutrition.
It is often the poor in Freetown who disproportionately bear the brunt of this damage. Unplanned construction, deforestation, destruction of water catchment areas, as well as soil erosion, have increased the risk of floods during the rainy season, particularly in already vulnerable communities. The Kroo Bay settlement, in central Freetown, experienced the worst flooding in its history in 2015 with damage to property and the increased spread of disease.
The livelihoods of local small-scale fishermen are also suffering, both due to illegal trawling along the coast, but also due to a loss of marine life. Farther inland, farmers have suffered due to illegal logging, despite the designation of special “protected areas” and “forest reserves.” The area of primary forest in Sierra Leone, once over 70 percent, has been reduced to under 6 percent, with a trend of rapid deforestation continuing.
In what is already a fragile country, slowly recovering from a devastating ebola outbreak and the wounds of a decade long civil war, strains on the environment pose a serious threat to the country’s development. At the root of this are weak government enforcement measures and the lack of a comprehensive framework to mitigate the environmental costs of development while protecting the environment. Beyond protecting Sierra Leone’s forest and marine life, efforts need to be made to create a safe and healthy environment for the country’s population. Nearly half of the population does not have access to safe drinking water, and only 13 percent have access to adequate sanIitiation facilities.
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Working at the intersection of Science, Media and Community to shape smart policy
For each of these issues we’ll be looking at the challenges on the ground, talking to people about their experiences, engaging communities in co-producing solutions, and showcasing examples of resourcefulness and innovation. Through this process, we’ll explore ways to bridge the gap between grassroots initiatives and policy.
Using radio, video and digital tools we’ll address environmental sustainability through the lens of urban development, socioeconomic factors, policy and governance structures, as well as the relationships between them. Partnering with local media will allow us to provide training to local journalists, building the necessary skill set for effective environmental reporting.
By creating a platform for information and knowledge exchange, we believe we can promote dialogue and create linkages between community groups, civil society, experts and decision makers.
Anne Bennett, Hirondelle USA
Nazia Parvez, brightstarXD
Samira Ben Omar, Health Outcomes and Healthcare Service Design, National Health Service (NHS), UK
- Cotton Tree News (CTN)
- Prof. Ogunlade Davidson, Co-Chair IPCC Working Group III, and University of Sierra Leone
- Fondation Hirondelle
Manilius Garber, Principal, JYGA Architects
- Kate Garnett, Director, National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security
- Paul Glynn, Writer and Filmmaker
- Edward Kargbo, University of Sussex
Jordan Kimball, Agroforestry Resources (ARU)
- Idriss Kpange, Concept Media
- Kroo Bay Resident’s Association
- Media Matters for Women
- Paul Munro, Energy for Opportunity / Lecturer in Environmental Humanities at University of New South Wales
- Arnold Okoni-Williams, Conservation Ecologist, University of Sierra Leone (FBC)
- Lynette Palmer, Clinical Consultant
- Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC) with the DPU (UCL)
- Tacugama Wildlife Sanctuary
Are you a Researcher or Journalist?
APPLY FOR A MICRO-GRANT
If you are a Sierra Leone based researcher or journalist and have a great idea for an environment-related story, apply for our micro-grants here