I’m pleased to have been part of the recent environmental reporting workshops organised by the Lost Freetown Collective (LFC) and Hirondelle USA, and hosted by Concept Multimedia. Led by co-director of LFC, Nazia Parvez, the workshops brought together Freetown-based journalists and media professionals to explore the theme: ‘coastal zone management and climate change.’
Mangrove forests form an integral part of coastal ecosystems and play a key role in climate change mitigation. Growing in tropical and sub-tropical tidal areas, such as estuaries and marine shorelines, their roots extend deep into the coastal sediment. They serve as effective natural barriers to rising sea levels and flooding, bearing the brunt of storm surges and preventing excessive sedimentation. According to Corcoran, Ravilious and Skuja (2007), mangroves also serve as major carbon sinks, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere together with other greenhouse gases.
Recent incidences of flooding and localised landslides in Freetown have clearly indicated that Sierra Leone lacks the capacity to absorb the effects of such disasters. There is weak resilience, a low level of preparedness and inadequate adaptive capacity in the country to resist climate-induced natural disasters. Communities that are directly affected, including Susan’s Bay in Central Freetown, are increasingly experiencing adverse environmental conditions, especially flooding during the rains, and dwindling water supplies.
With increasing demand for land — due to population growth, demographic changes, and urbanization — and a commensurate increase in the demand for water, food, and shelter, there is a need to re-examine existing land use patterns and consider the possibility of alternative and/or multiple land uses. While still not widespread and fully embraced, agroforestry may provide a solution, offering relatively inexpensive and feasible strategies for providing employment and food security while supporting natural habitats.
In his keynote address to the International Expert Group Meeting on Forced Eviction Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, noted that urbanisation is not simply about housing creation and slum prevention. Rather, urbanisation should be understood in much broader terms and consider the potential roles played by governments and policymakers in making cities more efficient, inclusive and equitable.
I first heard Bruno’s name in a bar in Freetown in 2007, a year or so after his escape. A man was telling his friend of a mysterious encounter his sister had had upcountry, while washing clothes in a river. His sister, he said, had seen a mysterious hairy creature watching her from the bushes, until it fled into the forest. His companion joked that this “creature” must have been Bruno, the escaped chimpanzee.
This is an initiative that has been ten years in the making. It started out in 2006, not as an environmental or even film project, but as a documentary photography endeavour. An architect and aspiring photojournalist, I was then living in Freetown and wanted to capture the everyday reality of different communities in the city.