EPASL CONCLUDES A FIVE-DAY COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN REGION

The Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone EPASL in collaboration with Moyamba District council, civil society organizations, fire force and the media has concluded a five-day Community Engagement on mainly bush fire. The awareness raising campaign, „Village to Village‟ targeted five communities in Moyamba district that have recently suffered from severe fire incidents that have left over forty houses burnt and five hundred people homeless. Fatmata Bakarr Sesay, Senior Information Education and Communication Officer of EPASL said the Agency was deeply disturbed by the precarious situation of victims of the incidents noting raising awareness on the dangers of fire was crucial in protecting the environment. She said it was necessary for communities to review their farming methods from what she called „Slash and burn to inland valley swamp‟ as one of the ways of preventing incidences of fire and promote environment protection issues. She described the traditional method (slash and burn) as a major factor responsible for fire disaster and climate change. She cautioned community members that adopting inland valley swamp would not only increase their yield and production but would also create a friendly environment for them in their communities. One of the victims and a mother, Gbassay Turay in Mosorie Village, Bumpeh Chiefdom said she was greatly divested of three to the recent fire incidents. She acknowledged the issues presented by the visiting team as fact but noted as locals they were accustomed to the crude method for their farming activities which she described as their main source of livelihood. She called on the Agency to develop a project that would enable EPA to transform the theories into practical implementation with them in the communities. Another victim, Moses Simbo who lost three houses, motor bike, car engine and other valuables dismissed the claims of bush fire being responsible for burning down his houses but attributed the problems to malice by those he referred to as wicked people. He said most often drivers and their apprentices irresponsibly smoke and drop cigarette juts along the Bo Freetown high way: an act he said was responsible for most of the fire incidents. Alhaji Ansumana Tarawalie, Development and Planning Officer of Moyamba District Council encouraged the communities to adopt environmental protection policies that would better promote their fundamental rights, safety and security. He said even though the local council was sympathizing with the victims, council was fully prepared to work with local authorities in enforcing the bye laws relating to environmental protection issues. Almost all of the victims in the five communities visited by the team have sought refuge to their nearby communities and have called on the government and its partners to support them before it was too late. The five communities included Bengeh village, Bumpeh chiefdom, of about nine houses. Mosorie Pumpeh Chiefdom eleven houses out 15, Old Combihun Fakunya chiefdom with seven houses, Momaligie Village ten houses including a mosque, Bununbu in the Kayamba chiefdom four houses. Bush fires also accounts for health problems like respiratory diseases encountered by most people in the rural areas. It is hoped that such vital awareness raising exercises conducted by the EPA would alert their minds to the devastating consequences of bush fires and help to minimize the practice.

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