Edward Sesay, CSSL Program Manager, gives insights into what has been happening at the COP27 in Egypt and its significance to Sierra Leone:

We heard several important messages coming out of CoP27, relevant for Sierra Leone and for the rest of Africa. At the Africa Leaders reception on 6th November speakers from financial institutions and leading non-profit organisations discussed some of the inspirational work happening across Africa to benefit people, nature, and climate, including important investment plans and the successes of the work done by the ten West and Central African countries under the Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative. The event was held in the Nature Pavilion, hosted by Proforest and Nature4Climate, in partnership with IUCN, the UN High Level Climate Champions team and Global Evergreening Alliance.

Momentum had been steadily building for this year’s CoP27, where ten African governments signed the declaration for the Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative (ASCI) on 9th November 2022. An African owned and led initiative, ASCI is a single set of principles for the responsible production of agricultural commodities in Africa; protecting forests, good governance, and transparency, while ensuring social benefits for farmers, communities, marginalised peoples and their human rights. It builds and expands upon the ‘Marrakesh Declaration for Sustainable Development of the Palm Oil Sector’ signed by seven African governments in 2016, operationalised through the Africa Palm Oil Initiative.

Sierra Leone is one of the ten countries forming the APOI, and the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) is the facilitator of the national platform, co-chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, reflecting the dual focus of both the forest communities and farmers with the private sector. On the ground, the Sierra Leone platform has been involved in setting up five alternative livelihood programmes to reduce dependence on its forests, including beekeeping and aquaculture. And at the national level the country’s RSPO National Interpretation was endorsed in 2021 following public consultation, forming a legal guide for all oil producing companies, including smallholders.

Sierra Leone has signed the Declaration to expand to the Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative, and this offers a huge hope to our country as we strive for the responsible production of agricultural commodities – all the time protecting our forests and ensuring good governance and transparency, whilst ensuring social benefits for our farmers, communities and marginalised people.

To end, I will quote the statement made by the Hon. Minister of Environment, Prof Foday Jaward, at the signing of the Declaration at CoP27:

"We have been on a journey, encompassing many of my esteemed colleagues in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which demonstrates our commitment to sustainable agriculture and private sector development. As Minster of Environment of Sierra Leone I am proud to take this next step to sign the Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative, providing a single platform for all future development. The ground work has been laid with the approval of the national interpretation of RSPO, with strong engagement and commitment to the process from the private sector. Beyond palm we have also ensured any development uses a full FPIC process to ensure communities retain control over their land and the future of the landscape".

Author: Edward Sesay, Program Manager, CSSL