A team from the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe consisting of representatives of the forestry department and BirdLife International, embarked on a week-long learning visit to Sierra Leone from October 9 – 15, 2022. This is part of the learning component of the EU International Partnerships funded PAPFoR project being implemented by the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) and Gola Rainforest Conservation – Limited by Guarantee (GRC-LG) in the greater Gola landscape.

While in the provinces, the team was taken on a conducted tour to the Tiwai Island where they inspected the habitat of numerous Pigmy Hippos and other interesting sites in the wild. They were also led into the Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP) to enable them have further impression about not only the richness of the biodiversity contained therein, but also to allow them identify significant areas for improvement.

The team held several engagement sessions with one of the Forest Management Committees in Gola, relevant government institutions and the staffs of GRC-LG and CSSL in Kenema and Freetown. The engagements were predominantly focused on experience sharing in the area of forest management.

Welcoming the team, Dr. Sheku Kamara, Executive Director at CSSL called on all stakeholders to continue to work together in high spirits to save this and the next generations. “Unlike humans, animals do not know geographical boundaries; they go everywhere, any time. We are linked across the world by birds”, he noted.

The visiting team expressed appreciation to the host (CSSL) and EU for such initiative. Through their team lead, Maria Afonso, they provided an overview of the state of the forests in the twin country (São Tomé and Príncipe), and also shared their impression about their experiences in the various sites they visited in Sierra Leone.

"For me, the exchange visit is well in place and very good because I discovered that, the challenges are similar in both countries, and this should help us all to learn from each other. The presence of Forest Management Committees across the Gola Landscape is very new to us. This really shows that, there is a lot of coordination and community involvement in the conservation work that the PAPFor project is doing. This is impressive to us and therefore, it is something we would consider to introduce in the management of our forests".

On their part, GRC-LG and CSSL outlined not only some of the major gains so far achieved over the years, – including the declaration of Gola Rainforest as a trans-boundary National Park and the work of GRC-LG and CSSL to sustain those gains – but also key challenges bedeviling the sustainable protection of GRNP and all other protected areas across the country.

Interested in the work of our partners from Sao Tomé and Principe? Have look into their short video: