Plantain Island is sinking  

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By Alhaji Haruna Sani

Plantain Island, home to over 4500 predominantly Muslim residents, is grappling with the relentless erosion of its territory due to rising sea levels. The erosion has led to the destruction of countless social and cultural infrastructures, including the Primary School and the central Mosque. The Island now staggers on the brink of disappearance.

Plantain Island is located in Kagboro Chiefdom, Moyamba District in the Southern Region of Sierra Leone.

The community has a single primary school and a pre-school, the Supreme Islamic Primary School built in 1986 and Al-Iklas Preparatory School founded in 2020.

The Supreme Islamic Council Primary School which was positioned over 100 meters from the sea has lost two of its classrooms and the Head teacher’s office to the relentless rise of the ocean.

The Supreme Islamic Council Primary School has lost two classrooms and the Head teacher’s office to the encroaching sea.

Osman AD Kamara, the Head teacher of the primary school, laments the erosion eating deep into the school environs, making parents hesitant to send their children, fearing the imminent danger.

Ibrahim Taqi Kargbo, Deputy Imam of Masjid Takwah, the central Mosque, once situated at the heart of Plantain Island, over 200 metres from the sea is now slowly submerging with a distance of less than 10 feet to the encroaching sea.

Masjid Takwah slowly sinking in the waters is situated in Babylon, the once centre of the community

The foundation of the mosque has already surrendered to the encroaching waters. The islanders have already started building it replacement to the new central mosque to the centre of the town.

“We were born and raised in this Island and we have nowhere to go. Our structures and plants are submerging year after year and most of our religious and social infrastructures are succumbing to the encroaching waters”, Youth leader, Alpha G. Kamara said.

Adama Kabia, Village Chairperson said she migrated to the island in 1984 when village was a lucrative fishing and agricultural ground. “We are pleading with you to save the women and children of this land because we are the most vulnerable”, she cried to the visitors.

Adama suggested banking the land against the encroaching sea.  “If this land is not banked against the encroaching waters, a large portion of this land is bound to submerge, and when it happens, we the women and children are at more risk”, she lamented.

On Tuesday, May 14th, representatives from IOM, EPA, and various development partners, including the US Embassy, Embassy of Iceland, UNDP, UK Aid, European Union, and other dignitaries, embarked on a interesting sea journey to Plantain Island to engage with the affected community.

IOM and partners on the depleted island

During the visit, community leaders expressed their desperation for action to save the island from disappearing.

Following a visit in February of this year, where the effects of climate change were assessed, both organizations have embarked on a mission to formulate policies aimed at tackling the challenges faced by the community.

In response, IOM has allocated a substantial funding of USD 300,000 for a two-year pilot project aimed at understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change on Plantain Island and Yelibuya Islands.

Christos Christodoulides, Head of Office IOM Sierra Leone, emphasized the importance of the project in understanding the nexus between migration and climate change.

The depleted Island

Tamba Emmanuel Nyaka, Director of Climate Change at EPA, expressed gratitude for the resilience of Plantain Island’s people and reiterated the agency’s commitment to collaborating with IOM to secure funding for mitigation efforts.

Dr. Pauline Macharia, Head of Programs at IOM Sierra Leone, highlighted the organization’s commitment to addressing climate change impacts, emphasizing the importance of environmental and socio-economic studies in formulating effective interventions for both islands.

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