The Gola Forest Programme is paying rightful landowners of the Gola Forest in the chiefdoms located around the Gola Forest in the south and eastern parts of the country. The latest chiefdom to benefit is the Makpele chiefdom in the Pujehun district.
The Gola Forest Programme held a ceremony at the Makpele chiefdom court barray in Zimmi town to pay the landowners. The rightful owner’s fund, which was up to the tune of 8,000 US dollars – an equivalent of 24 million Leones – was paid as support to the landowners for the years 2007-2008 to help protect the reserve forest. Addressing the beneficiaries at the court barray, the Gola Forest Protected Area Manager John Moriba disclosed that the Gola Forest Programme has also budgeted 30 million Leones for gari and food production in the Makpele chiefdom and an additional 86 million Leones for the construction of a satellite clinic in the chiefdom. The manager’s announcement was followed by a roaring applause from his audience at the ceremony. Similar payments have been made to other chiefdoms in the east.
Speaking to the Press in Kenema, Moriba reacted to plans for government to hand over the Bagra hill in the Tunkia chiefdom to a mining company, saying that a sad mistake is about to be made. Moriba noted that forest reserves have been in Sierra Leone since 1926 and over the years they have received concerns which led to the declaration by His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma that the Gola Forest will be transformed into a National park soon.
Moriba said it was surprising to hear that arrangements are being made to hand over the Bagra hills to an iron ore company, the Sierra Leone Mining Company Ltd.
He noted with dismay that there has been no prior consultation with the government on the mining issues nor have they been informed by the agricultural ministry which mandated the Gola Forest Programme to protect the forest.
Moriba described mining as destructive and that it has never benefited the people of Sierra Leone but foreigners.
Fortunately he said individuals he registered with the programme are committed to negotiate and seek the best interest of the people by weighing the two ventures.
Moriba said he can accept the outcome of such a meeting once it is held to pursue the best interest of the people.
He said he is confident that the Gola Forest will win the minds of all because of their past and continuing records. He hopes government will duly consult or inform them if there is any such plan.
By Saffa Moriba in Kenema