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 US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
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 North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
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.

All About America

AppleAndroid