The Government of Sierra Leone through the newly created Ministry of the Environment have played host to the African Environment and Wangari Maathai day 2020 with the theme ‘our resources – our future”. The Day which was commemorated on the 3rd March 2020 at the Miatta Conference Center attracted guests from across the African region as well as the host country.
African Environment Day, celebrated annually on 3 March, was established by the Organization of African Unity in 2002 as a way of raising awareness on the pressing environmental challenges facing the continent. Since 2012, the African Environment Day has been celebrated in conjunction with Wangari Maathai Day, in order to pay tribute to the late Nobel Laureate’s green legacy.
The relevance of having the African Environmental Day commemoration in Sierra Leone, inter alia, is that it will lead to increased awareness on the challenges facing our environment; enhance sustainable management of resources for sustainable development; sensitization and awareness raising on women’s access to land and other natural resources which hitherto, has been encumbered by the inequitable use of natural resources; expose the country to more tourist attractions as well as foreign direct investment and strengthens cooperation on several Multilateral Environment Agreements to which Sierra Leone is a party.
The African Environment Day celebration is supported by the African Union and the Government of Sierra Leone and its partners. The theme for the celebration of this day also draws attention to the enormous opportunities that Africa has in the sustainable management of its natural resources.
The Chief Minister of Sierra Leone, Prof. David J. Francis served as the Keynote Speaker during the commemoration. While he was delivering his statement on behalf of His Excellency the President, he said Sierra Leone’s hosting of the 2020 edition of the African Environment and Wangari Maathai Day celebrations was a clear manifestation of the fact that the country was stable and peaceful. Emphasizing on the theme of the celebration, Prof. Francis said ‘our strategic resources in the continent have not been beneficial to us in the continent’ and stressed that with a concerted effort, there was hope for the future. Prof. Francis added that the theme which focuses on the natural resources aimed at addressing the numerous environmental challenges facing the continent.
Prof. Wangari Maathai had played a great role in the world the world in general and Africa in particular in terms of environmental management and sustainability. Prof. Francis called on fellow Africans to adopt the legacies of the first African Woman to have won the Nobel Peace Price.
To demonstrate the seriousness on issues of environment and national development in the country, the President of Sierra Leone, H.E Dr. Julius Maada Bio established the Ministry of environment to ensure environmental sustainability and Prof. Francis said with the leadership and caliber of Dr. Foday M. Jaward at the new environment Ministry, the Sierra Leonean environment can be managed well.
In his welcome address, the Minister of the Environment, Prof. Jaward said Sierra Leone was proud as a nation to host the African Environment Day. Stressing on the need for change and adopt new measures towards the environment, Prof. Jaward said as Africans, ‘we have come to terms with the fact that we cannot continue with business as usual’. He said natural resource exploitation without regard for environmental protection is detrimental and therefore called Africa to act now.
He commented that Women played a key role in the management of natural resources but that often times they had been the ones left behind in taking actions towards environmental protection. He applauded the AU Commission for taking resolutions that would ensure the inclusion of women in the protection of the environment.
There is still a gender gap that inhibits women in terms of their productive role in environment governance. Prof. Jaward said closing that gap will foster economic growth in developing countries.
Her Worship the Mayor of the Freetown Municipality, Madam Yvone Aki Sawyer said in other to combat Climate Change and other social challenges I’m the country, the Freetown City Council was already in preparation to plant about a million trees in the city annually.
The Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission, H. E. Ambasador Josefa Sacko said Africa’s most extractive industries had sparked controversies in environmental management and had contributed to the devastation of the environment and economic structures. He said Africa doesn’t need to borrow from anyone if ‘we manage our resources well’. He added that the value of overseas development aid does not equate to the resources in Africa, adding that sustainable management of ‘our land and water resources will take us a long way towards environmental management’. He congratulated the Minister of the Environment and the government of Sierra Leone for hosting the African Environment Program this year which clearly shows the seriousness of the government of Sierra Leone towards addressing environmental issues. The celebrations would come to a conclusion on Wednesday 4th March with a tour of some key ecological sites within the Western Area.