News / Africa

Sierra Leone's Fragile Mangrove Forests Under Threat

Fid Thompson

Mangrove forests line much of Sierra Leone's coastline.  But these fragile ecosystems are under threat from increased human activity in coastal areas.  Sierra Leone has recently signed up to a regional charter to protect their mangrove resources.  

The bare ground surrounding the fishing village of Fobo twinkles in the sunlight with tiny crystals of salt.  This area used to be covered with the swampy mud and tangled roots of mangrove trees.  But during the past 10 years, people have cleared the area to plant rice and to extract salt from the rich soil.

For generations, people here have scraped the ground for 'salt dust'.  The collected dust is filtered with saltwater and the resulting solution boiled to produce salt for sale in Sierra Leone's inland provinces.

Marie Kano is chairwoman of the local salt producer's association.  She says with fewer mangrove trees to burn as fuel, business has become almost impossible.

Kano says now there is no wood left here, and the salt business is not worth it.  My children, my sister and my father lived with me, she says, and we all used to cook salt.  But now there is no wood, they have left and gone to town.

Kano says the trees are so far away now, it is only those with boats who can access them.  But the loss of the trees is having more than an economic impact on those who who exploit them as natural resources.

As part of the West African Mangrove Initiative, Sierra Leone will soon endorse its version of a regional charter to protect vulnerable mangrove forests that involves seven coastal countries from Mauritania to Sierra Leone.

Richard Dacosta is program officer of the Wetlands International, one of the conservation organizations supporting the initiative.

Dacosta says if we allow the mangroves to disappear, then fishing will be in crisis and the ecological balance disrupted.  Also, he says, saltwater tides will invade river estuaries and coastal areas.  And local communities that live on the coast will have to move.

Experts point out that the trees and their roots play a critical ecological role in the coastal areas, preventing erosion, providing protection from storm surges, filtering toxins from soil and providing a habitat for a host of organisms.

Dacosta says the situation is urgent.  Of an original three million hectares of mangrove forest across the seven countries involved, barely 800,000 hectares remain.

The man responsible for mangroves in Sierra Leone's Forestry Department, Mohamed Mansaray, says he believes the regional charter will help countries share experiences on how to best preserve mangrove forests across West Africa.

"The specific objective is to get our national input into this charter which has a regional framework, so that our national interests and concerns are reflected into this charter so that we may join other partner countries, especially for trans-boundary arrangement so that mangrove resources could not only be protected within the borders of Sierra Leone, but could also be offered to other neighboring countries so that we could have a regional management framework," said Mohamed Mansaray.

Mangrove forests are rich in biodiversity and provide numerous valuable resources to their human inhabitants.  These saltwater trees also serve as nurseries for fish, shrimp and crabs.  Oysters cling to mangrove roots and migratory birds shelter in their branches.

But saving mangroves is about more than just conservation.  As mangrove resources dwindle and coastal populations increase, preserving mangrove areas will also be crucial for maintaining coastal stability and averting cross-border disputes over resources.   

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid