The Community Mobilization Officers- CMOs- for the Across The River Trans-Booundary Peace Park Project (ARTP), has concluded a week-long community awareness raising workshop for over 100 participants in Zimmi town, Makpele chiefdom in the Pujehun district , Gorahun town for Tunkia chiefdom, Faama town for Nomo chiefdom in the Kenema district and Jojoima town in Malema chiefdom in the Kailahun district.
Addressing the participants at the Faama court bary in the Nomo chiefdom, the Administrative Officer of Across the River Trans-boundary Peace Park Project for Sierra Leone and Liberia, Alfred H.B. Roberts, said the CMOs were recruited in order to live, dwell and work with the community people to ensure the wise use of the community corridor forests for the benefit of all and sundry and future generations. He appeal to the community people to live in harmony with the CMOs and to look at them with a spectacle free from prejudice. Mr. Roberts added that the CMOs are operating in four community forest corridor chiefdoms at the moment namely Makpele, Tunkia, Nomo and Malema, saying that they will later extend their operation to the other three Gola Forest chiefdoms: Bari, Gaura and Koya. Giving brief background to Across the River Trans-boundary Peace Park Project, he explained that on the 15th May 2009, the Presidents of Sierra Leone and Liberia converged in Lalehun, a small village in Gaurag chiefdom in the Kenema district, which is on the edge of the Gola Forest, to annoucne the establishment of a new Trans-boundary Peace Park between Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to inaugurate the headquarter building project for the proposed Gola Forest National Park, which, he said, has been recently declared by the Government of Sierra Leone.
At the event, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone pronounced ‘The long term benefits of the conservation of the Gola Forests, adding that it far outweighs the short term benefits of extraction and destruction.
President Ellen Johnson-Sierleaf of Liberia said the launch of Sierra Leone Liberia Trans-boundary Peace Park project “will serve as a symbol of our renewed commitment to peace, stability and biodiversity conservation in this region”.
Speaking about the importance of protecting community forests, the Community Mobilization Officer based at Faama in the Nomo chiefdom, Patrick Kallon, says the forest provides shade, makes our soil fertile, gives home to many different species of birds, insects and larger animals, and wood for timber. He says communty forest corridor can promote good health by providing herbs for medicines, provide wood for fuel, building poles, furniture and leaves for feeding our domestic animals, adding that forest regulates and maintains our climate among others.
Sallay Koker, another facilitator, said the future generations have the right and need to see, use and equally experience all that we are seeing in the forest types, the herbs used, animals we enjoy seeing and using must remain to be seen, as against extinction with historical perspective. She therefore called on all to say zero tolerane to illicit activities in the community forest corridors. She also called on them to adapt positive behaviour and attitude towards the protection of community forest. “Manage the community forest for you and your entire generations”.
A participant at the workshop , Mohamed Mansaray 11, who is the chairman for mining in the chiefdom said agriculture is the best and that he will continue to prevail on all to forget about mining, as it causes a lot of destruction to community.
Ansumana Gbekie, Vice Chairman Conservation Society appealed to the community to use the bush wisely, and also called on power saw operators not to come close to the Gola forest with their activities. He promised all that they will do everything as a community to ensure that the community forest is wisely utilized. Other facilitators include Saffa K. Ansumana and Philip M. Allieu