Story and Photos by Valesius Koker | Senior Project Manager | Heifer Sierra Leone

The ecology in the Port Loko district of Sierra Leone, which is predominantly savannah, suffers from seasonal bush fires. The indiscriminate burning of bushes during the dry season has posed a serious threat to the environment, as bushes are no longer allowed to go through the fallow period that enhances good crop yields.

Frequent burning has also caused a lowering of the water table and a severe water shortage. Various attempts by the Ministry of Agriculture have failed, including the introduction of fast-growing trees that do not produce economically important fruits. These trees are also being consumed by the bush fires.

Heifer International intervened by introducing tree crops of economic value (cashew intercropped with cassava) to try to alleviate the problem. The planted areas are always kept free of weeds, particularly the savannah grasses that attract fires. Heifer has been using drama to educate communities about seasonal bush fires, and incidents have declined noticeably.

Kids Arise, a local non-governmental organization in Port Loko, specializes in drama and songs using local languages. Through Heifer, the group has created awareness to educate communities on the dangers of the indiscriminate burning of bushes.

The drama group attracted all types of people in the communities they visited, thereby educating every community member instead of only project participants. The dramas help the audience understand the dangers of the seasonal bush fires, the various sources of these fires and preventive measures.

The Heifer facilitating team was joined by the forestry officer of the Ministry of Agriculture Food Security and Forestry, who addressed matters pertaining to the Ministry's forestation policies. Several issues regarding enforcement of these measures focused on containing the indiscriminate burning. Action points were suggested by all stakeholders, including counselors, section and town chiefs, and youth leaders.

Following the performances, in which counselors and other local authorities participated, the Port Loko district council was urged by its counselors to come up with uniform by-laws against indiscriminate burning and their enforcement measures.

 

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Author

Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.