The Western Area Peninsula in western Sierra Leone is an endangered paradise. This is where tropical forests, spectacular beaches and rich vegetation combine to a form a fantastic landscape. It is also home to approximately 50,000 people living in 30 villages. They are former civil war refugees who settled here between 1992 and 2002.
At the beginning of 2012, the government designated this “green lung” on the western tip of Sierra Leone as a national park. With this act, it affirmed the efforts of the inhabitants of the peninsula, Welthungerhilfe and its partner organisation Environmental Forum for Action, which have been fighting for the protection of the forest since 2008.
Protecting the forest
The inhabitants of the peninsula make their living from fishing and agriculture. Until a few years ago, they were exploiting this environment and hence their own habitat by illegally cutting down firewood and using it for smoking fish. They also burnt down large areas of forest to create arable land.
Through training courses, Welthungerhilfe highlighted the crucial importance of the forest to the people's own survival: Trees stave off extreme weather events such as heavy rains and storms, their roots counteract erosion and landslides and the forest's rivers and lakes provide drinking water.
Rangers take care
Together with the inhabitants, community leaders and the government Welthungerhilfe has established rules for protecting the forest: Within the newly defined forest boundaries, tree populations are maintained and protected.
Fast-growing trees and bushes are grown in plantations, which also provide firewood for cooking and smoking fish. Some inhabitants have been trained as national park rangers and now ensure that the forest is not destroyed by either outsiders or by those living within it.