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Metrological Department: the gateway to Sierra Leone’s development

March 3, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi

Many Sierra Leoneans have been lambasting the Metrological Department for not providing proper weather information to the general public to aid informed decision making.

Some even suggest that the institution is a shadow of its former self, considering its importance in the development process of the country.

All of these comments are valid; but it significant to note that the institution has been faced with a lot of challenges.

Recent moves by the department, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, could be considered as a stepping stone in addressing most of these difficulties.

The transformation of the all important department into a stand-alone government agency is one of the strategies proffered by experts.

The institution is housed in a wooden building with broken vehicles and acute shortage of appropriate weather forecast equipment.

Only recently, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea, accredited to Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with residence in Abuja, Nigeria,  His Excellency Noh Kyu-duk,  donated ten set of computers and accessories to the Meteorological Department of Sierra Leone.

The donation was as a result of longstanding diplomatic relationship that has existed between Sierra Leone and Korea.

Ambassador Kyu-duk emphasised that as Korea’s ambassador accredited to these three countries, he would ensure that his country continue to engage with the Sierra Leone government in developmental activities.

The metrological department, like many other institutions in the country, urgently needs support, especially when there are serious issues around climate change.

Sierra Leone’s metrological department was a key weather facility in the West Africa sub-region as it served as headquarters for the British West Africa Meteorological Services, which was established in 1929.

The Sierra Leone equivalent was retained after independence, which then had good capacity in weather data collection, analyses and service provision, with eleven synoptic, three Agro Met stations, two upper AIT stations scattered around the country for monitoring weather and climatic patterns.

But the facilities became derelict during years of neglect by successive governments, while some of the equipment were damaged during the conflict from 1991 to 2002.

Minister of Transport and Aviation, Leonard Balogu Koroma, during his visit yesterday to handover the sets of computers to staff at the department,   extended heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Ambassador Kyu–duk for what he described as a magnificent gesture.

He said government was working assiduously hard to transform the department into an agency, as prescribed by international standards.

Koroma noted that once the department has been transformed into an agency it would be able to effectively and efficiently carry out its responsibilities in saving lives and properties.

“This is a department we are trying to transform into an agency that is the situation as all over the world because the role played by this department cannot be overemphasised. It deals directly with human activities and that is why government considers their roles as significant towards the socio-economic development of the country,” he said and added that Sierra Leone has been identified the second most vulnerable country across the globe to climate change.

“We will make sure that serious actions are taken to improve on this condition in this department, I want to thank Ambassador Noh Kyu-duk for the support to the government and people of Sierra Leone and I want to assure him that our good diplomatic relationship will continue,” he concluded.

Director of the department, Alpha Bockarie, thanked the minister for his relentless effort and commitment to building the institution.

Bockarie said they have been working hard to ensure the ailing institution remains viable in providing reliable weather updates for the safety and protection of lives and properties of Sierra Leoneans.

However, Bockarie said the department was confronted by numerous challenges. “The department is faced with a lot of challenges, but it gives me the greatest pleasure to have our minister here today, he is an astute personality that always wants this department to grow from strength to strength. We want this department to be upgraded to international standard because when you go to the aviation department, you will notice that the same flights that go to other countries are the same coming here to Sierra Leone, this is why we have to work towards best international practice,” he said.

Bockarie added: “I want to appeal to the minister for training and capacity building, especially for our staff at the Lungi international airport. We trained some of our staff who are doing extremely well at the Lungi Airport. More importantly, Mr. Minister, the support from Ambassador Noh Kyu-duk is timely and significant to our work. Before now we have also got support from IFAD at our districts and regional offices; we need more facilities to carry out our responsibilities, I will assure you all that. ”

Head of civil cociety group working on climate and environmental protection, Usman Kanu, in an interview, thanked Minister Koroma for concentrating on the department. He said that the meteorological department should be strengthened to provide good weather and climate services to end-users locally, and to fulfill their international obligation of weather and climatic data and information exchange and services.

Kanu said he was saddened by the fact that Sierra Leoneans were not informed ahead of the 16 September flooding last year, which caused loss of lives and destruction of properties worth millions of Leones.

“It is well known that during the last 30 years the climate of West Africa from the rainforest of Sierra Leone and Liberia to the sub-Sahara regions have undergone various changes, especially in terms of rainfall. This has had large negative consequences on farmers who depend mainly on rain-fed agriculture, and on the regional economy,” said Kanu.

He urged the government to provide modern equipment for the meteorological department to work effectively in the country.

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