Salone intensifies effort to combat land degradation


June 23, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai

Sheik Sowa moderating a discussion session during the validation meeting

Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment in collaboration with its stakeholders, has braced up to validate set targets that would be geared towards combating land degradation in the country.

The two-day target- setting validation meeting was held at Hotel Mariam in Aberdeen, Freetown on Tuesday, 20th June, 2017.

Sheik Sowa, National Consultant for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD) Land Degradation Network targets setting process, said the meeting was a continuation of what they had started some months ago.

“After that target setting process last year, we set up a technical working group. What we are doing is trying to set targets for the attainment of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) for Sierra Leone. This is a process that is being undertaken by all countries in Africa that have signed to the Conference of Partners which is popularly called COP 12 of the UNCCD,” he said.

He added that Sierra Leone must be able to set her own target as against 2030, when they would be expecting to have a land degradation neutrality status.

He said the target actually fell under Sustainable Development Goals target 15.3.1.

“We are also here to validate the hot spots of land degraded areas that we have identified. We have three indicators of land degradation which include land cover change, land productivity dynamics and soil organic carbon. These indicators are complementary,” he disclosed.

He noted that the hot spots were all over the place, especially in Koinadugu and some parts of Bombali districts, northern Sierra Leone, where they discovered land cover change.

Edward Bendu, Acting Chief Environment Officer, Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, who also doubles as the Focal Person for the UNCCD in Sierra Leone, said in June 2016, his ministry, on behalf of the government of Sierra Leone, expressed interest together with 108 other countries, who were affected by land degradation, to take part in the land degradation neutrality targets setting process.

 He added that the process was to respond to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 15, which urged for the restoration and reversal of the trend in the loss of biodiversity and forest.
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“We have identified over 10 land degraded hot spots in Sierra Leone. These spots have been seriously degraded and we want to reverse the loss of forest cover, soil organic cover, and even reduce the loss on land productivity,” he said.

He added that after the setting of targets, they would move over to identify transformative projects that would help Sierra Leone implement projects that would reduce the loss of forest cover, land productivity, and soil organic carbon content.

A lecturer in soil science at the Department of Soil Science, Njala University, Alie Kamara, said the process was very important for the country because: “When you look at our soil resources, you don’t wait for any scientific evidence to know that they are degrading.

 “It’s a win-win-situation because if we are able to reverse the trend of land degradation, we can improve the productivity on our lands which will immensely benefit our farming communities,” he said.

He said soil erosion is something that is very critical in terms of maintaining productivity of the land and it’s one of the key processes that degrade land.

“Considering our environment, Sierra Leone has high rainfall and when we look at our land management activities particularly by the farmers, they clear the land and expose the soil. The consequence of soil erosion is not recognized immediately. It’s a silent killer to agricultural activities,” he said.