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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid