Although Sierra Leone is small, it has a host of impressive biodiversity and landscapes. Species such as the chimpanzee, dwarf crocodile, white-necked picathartes, forest elephants, leopards, among others, can be found in the country.
However, human activities have posed threats to the existence of these species. In order to address this problem, the government of Sierra Leone passed into law the National Protected Area Authority Trust Fund Act of 2012. This Act makes provision for the establishment of the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), an institution that has the mandate to exercise oversight and authority over national parks and protected areas designated for conservation purposes.
On Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 June at the Police Officers Mess at Kingtom, Freetown, the NPAA with funds from the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) conducted a training of trainers’ workshop for the Sierra Leone Police on the relevant legislations in protected area management.
The purpose of the workshop, according to the Chair of the Board of Directors of the NPAA, Dr. Nana Pratt is to strengthening law enforcement, through judicial intervention.
She stated, “We of NPAA recognised that the role of the police in combating protected area crimes and protecting the protected areas cannot be undermined or marginalised in any way. This is why this training today is being implemented”.
According to the Inspector General of Police (IG) Francis Munu, the workshop is intended to enhance the capacity of the SLP, to effectively investigate and prosecute offenders in relation to the NPAA which serve to protect certain areas.
“Man’s interaction with the environment has both positive and negative consequences but we must not only utilize the benefit of our interaction with the environment but we must also ensure that we mitigate against the consequences of such interactions. Our dealings with the environment are causing so much destruction now we hear about issues of climate change, issues of global warming issues of land degradation. People who burn coal, who took that as their own living are causing so much destruction that if you do not take positive action to protect it there will come a time when there will not be sufficient water for the people of Freetown”, he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, the Director of Environment, Edward Bendu, said a fundamental principle in natural resources management and protected area management was that it should to be done collectively including political focal points, policy makers, the national police, opinion leaders, leadership at community level, communities in and around the resource and civil society organisations.
He said the training of trainers’ workshop was a positive way to identify common policy, legal and implementation challenges with a view to establishing a firm understanding of policies around protected area management while consolidating effective coordination and collaboration mechanism in the work of the authority and the police.
He noted that out of the 48 forest reserves in the country, 15 are under protection by the NPAA. He said less than 5% of the original forests are remaining in isolated reserves on top of mountains and hillside.
He urged the police to be familiar and acquainted with the various laws as they are documents that are important to their work as natural resource managers.
Some of the topics discussed were Geographic Information System on Protected Areas, Investigation of Protected Area Crimes, Prosecution of Protected Area Crimes in Court, Draft Charges on Protected Area Crimes.
By Edna Smalle
Thursday July 13, 2017.