On July 19, 2018 in Freetown, the government of Sierra Leone launched a new project designed to build resilience for its coastal residents and employ cutting-edge ecosystem-based approaches to restore mangrove habitats and protect against rising seas, rising temperatures and uncertain climate futures.
The five-year Adapting to Climate Change Induced Coastal Risks Management in Sierra Leone project benefits from a US$9.9 million grant from the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund and US$31.6 million in co-financing from the government of Sierra Leone and partners.
The project is supported through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and is designed to strengthen the ability of coastal communities to systematically manage climate change risks in six pilot sites (Conakry Dee, Lakka, Hamilton, Tombo, Shenge and Turtle Island).
Key national partners include Sierra Leone’s Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Institute of Marine Biology and Oceanography, and the National Tourist Board.
“Climate change, sea-level rise, rising temperatures, and increased risks from floods and other natural disasters threaten the lives and livelihoods of the more than 3 million people that live on Sierra Leone’s coastline,” said Dr. Foday Jaward, Executive Chairperson of the Environmental Protection Agency. “By taking bold actions to protect the ecosystems of our coastline and build climate-smart economies, the Government of Sierra Leone is taking important steps in contributing to ensure no one is left behind in our race to achieve the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Almost half of Sierra Leone’s 530-kilometer-long coastline is protected by mangrove forests. But with few economic options, the forests have been decimated to collect wood for burning, while beaches and dune areas are being destroyed by illegal sand and stone mining operations.
“The key to this project will be providing local communities with the training, tools and technologies they need to diversify their incomes beyond mangrove cutting, and empower women and youth to play a more active role in a vibrant economy that protects our environment while at the same time providing families with the money they need to thrive,” said Foday.
This project is an effort to achieve Sierra Leone’s Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the bold goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to end poverty and hunger worldwide in the next 12 years (known as the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs).
Countries worldwide are committing resources to achieve the goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. The Sierra Leone Coastal Adaptation Project will be an essential component of the country’s work to end poverty and advance a more climate-resilient society.
- SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. Around 50 percent of Sierra Leone’s population lives on less than US$1.90 a day and 40 percent are considered food insecure, according to the World Food Programme. Uncertainty from climate change, increased risks from floods that destroy harvests and perpetuate poverty traps, disease outbreaks and continued conflict have limited the country’s ability to grow socially and economically after its decade-long civil war. The project aims to improve flood and marine forecasting within the coastal zone of Sierra Leone, providing useful climate information such as daily and seasonal forecasts that will help improve the resilience of the poor, especially fishing communities, reducing their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters. Project designers estimate that 116,000 people from Conakry Dee, Lakka, Hamilton, Tombo, Shenge and the Turtle Islands will benefit from these improved early warnings and disaster response mechanisms.
- SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security. The project will work with local women’s associations and extension services to provide farmers with small-scale water sources, irrigation systems and improved tools to increase incomes, feed their families and build resilience to uncertain climate futures.
- SDG 5: Achieve gender equality. In Sierra Leone, women are responsible for 90 percent of fish marketing. The project will work to include women in decision-making processes and strengthen market linkages.
- SDG 11: Resilient cities and human settlements. Improved climate information and increased capacity to predict sea-level rise will be essential in protecting the vulnerable communities of Sierra Leone’s coastline, including its capital city Freetown. By scaling up the successes of a recent GEF-financed project to Strengthen Climate Information and Early Warnings, the project will work to build increased weather and climate monitoring capacities at the national level.
- SDG 13: Fighting climate change and its impacts. Buildings are already falling into the sea along Sierra Leone’s coastline. A detailed topographic analysis will be executed through the project to develop coastal erosion profiles. This means planners can create proper setbacks and risk management strategies to avoid the destruction of important infrastructure and productive assets.
- SDG 15: Protect, restore and reverse land degradation. Through the project local communities will receive the training and tools they need to protect the environment. Young people will be trained to find work beyond illegal sand mining, and approximately 500 hectares of mangroves will be restored.
Photo of coastal slum in Freetown via Adobe Stock.