Lake Sonfon is one of the mountainous lakes in West Africa. It is situated in Diang chiefdom, Koinadugu district, north-east of Sierra Leone. It is a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) intended to be designated as a protected area in Sierra Leone because of its rich biodiversity and wildlife. The Emerald Sterling is an endemic bird species found in three West African states; Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone, Lake Sonfon hosts the largest population of this bird.

The lake has huge deposit of gold and therefore, attracts lots of artisanal and industrial mining activities. Industrial mining done by mining companies seriously encroaches the buffer zone which causes disturbance to wildlife and also results in environmental and human health hazards. This is especially so when the lake, which drains to the Pampana River, contains fresh water and is regarded as a major water source for domestic and other uses by many surrounding communities.

Promoting environmental education through community sensitization

Community roadshow is one among the key strategies of engagement and sensitization that the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) has been using over the years to raise awareness about environmental issues in communities around Lake Sonfon.  On 20th May 2024, CSSL engaged stakeholders and school nature club (SNC) pupils in a community roadshow at Kondembaia, headquarter town of Diang chiefdom. The purpose was to continue raising public awareness through SNCs about environmental hazards that accompany all forms of mining currently taking place in and around the lake. The campaign started with a match-past of school pupils and stakeholders across the centre of the village and ended at the compound of the Paramount Chief who delivered the keynote address and formally opened the event.

Addressing the school pupils, teachers and other key stakeholders, the Paramount Chief, Sheku Magba III Koroma of Diang chiefdom, declared that, “Education is better than mining”, and urged the pupils to take education seriously. “Most of your parents didn’t go to school, and have been mining for the longest of time but are still in poverty….”, he continued. He extended special thanks to the CSSL team for being in close engagement with his people over the years through campaigns and sensitization about the negative impact of mining. He expressed hope that such engagement would help to change their mindset and behaviours to ensure a healthy environment.

The CSSL-BftW Project Manager, Papanie Bai-Sesay, welcomed participants, and informed all that the roadshow was organized to pass on environmental education messages to the communities. He highlighted some of the effects of mining on the lives of the community people around Lake Sonfon and Pampana River.

Mariama Kargbo, CSSL’s Environmental Education Officer, said her role is to work with school nature clubs in various schools across the country, and involving school pupils is a strategic sensitization approach that the organization uses to help transform school pupils into nature ambassadors. She added that, it would help them grow up with such knowledge and ability to raise awareness in their various communities about the dangers of mining and deforestation, and the relevance of keeping the environment protected and healthy.

A major component of the roadshow was the performance of a drama skit titled; “Our lake, our future” by the SNCs pupils. They demonstrated in their roles key messages clearly depicting the ways mining investors entered in Diang chiefdom to mine in and around the lake, and how the it is being destroyed through their mining activities, causing shortage of potable water and various other attendant consequences.

The drama was followed by discussion that was moderated by the CSSL Communication Manager, Abdul Kaprr Dumbuya. He allowed school pupils and community stakeholders to express their thoughts about the content of the drama. Yerie S. Mansaray a female school pupil of the Kondembaia Secondary School expressed in a radio interview (Radio Bintumani 93.7 FM) that, “… mining is not a good practice. Let our chiefdom authorities set up byelaws to help protect Lake Sonfon from mining as this causes deforestation and shortage of water in our communities”.

Text: Alhaji Osman Kamara, Communication and Advocacy Officer, BftW Project 

CSSL Newsletter 2-2024

In this issue, the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone promotes livelihood activities in Big wata community to encourage the community to move away from the

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