With support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Sierra Leone, the Climate Change, Environment and Forest Conservation Consortium Sierra Leone (CEFON-SL) which has a motto “Safer Earth, Save Lives” commenced training of 180 participants including women and youths (30 from each community) in entrepreneurship and village savings and loan scheme (VSLA) in Lakka and Hamilton Villages in the Western Rural District to be followed by Tombo in the WARD-C and Conakry Dee, in the Kafu Bullom Chiefdom, Port Loko District, Kagboro in the Moyamba District and Turtle Island in the Bonthe District to mitigate the effects of climate change in their respective communities.
It is no secret that hurtful climate change is no stranger to Sierra Leone in recent times. A heavy downpour of rains that have led to flooding and destruction of human lives and properties, mudslides and unpredictable weather conditions that negatively affect farmers are some of the ways the country have been suffocated by climate change.
According to a study undertaken by WASH-Net and its partners, out of the 19 water catchment areas assessed, all have been invaded by citizens for cultivation and construction purposes. The consequences of such human actions are terrifying. A total of 79% of these water catchment areas have dried up and 59% have given way to the construction of houses, cultivation and massive timber logging. Coastal areas have particularly been affected by flooding, soil erosion and devastating storms that have significantly reduced their agricultural and fishing productivity–hence partly responsible for deepening the poverty levels in these areas.
Other negative effects of climate change are loss of water catchment areas, loss of mangrove breeding grounds for fish, lobsters and other marine lives and acute water shortage.
The five-year UNDP pilot phase project titled, ‘Adapting to Climate Change Induced Coastal Risk Management in Sierra Leone’ is one of the innovative contemporary ways to mitigate the dreadful effects of climate change in coastal areas in the country.
Unfortunately, Sierra Leoneans themselves trigger some of these harmful climate change activities.
The expected outcomes of the project are to increase beneficiaries’ knowledge and awareness regarding the harmful effects of climate change in their communities. Women and youths as project beneficiaries were encouraged to set up and run small and medium-scale businesses (that have no negative effects on climate change and the environment) in their various communities.
Also, knowledgeable beneficiaries are informally educated and sensitized to pass the message onto other members of their communities on how to make a living and at the same time not contributing to harmful climate change.
Climate change education training was developed and delivered to raise citizens’ awareness about the negative effects of human-facilitated climate change in their communities.
Furthermore, entrepreneurial skills training activities and village savings and loan scheme (VSLA) were provided for the beneficiaries to serve as alternative sources of income to be used to successfully start-up and run their small business enterprises and once productively engaged, it is expected that these beneficiaries will not be tempted to reengage in those livelihood activities that make the communities prone to negative climate change.
According to CEFON-SL, the expected outputs of the project are for the relevant district and community stakeholders who attended the meetings to identify gaps on the effects of climate change increased their knowledge and awareness on the harmful effects of climate change in their communities with pledges to support the implementation of the project.
Also, an entrepreneurship training manual has been developed and ready for use to roll out the entrepreneurship training for beneficiaries in the four projects.
During the implementation of activities, project team members emphasized the need for stakeholders to be adhering to the climate change adaptation measures highlighted during the training sessions even after the project would have elapsed.
The climate change adaptation information on alternative livelihood has been serving as a valuable resource material to sensitize stakeholders on climate change and water services. The resource materials provided by CEFCON-SL will continue to serve its purpose long after the project would have ended in addition to the fact that during the workshops, all participants were encouraged to make open commitments not to return to those income-generating activities that would negatively affect climate change in their communities.
In an interview with some of the beneficiaries, they commended the organizers for the knowledge imparted into them which they assured would be effectively utilized to sensitize others not to destroy the environment as well as improve on their livelihoods but also appealed to government, donors and well-wishers to help them with seed money to start their businesses.