Unraveling the Evolution of Natural Resources Management in Sierra Leone.
In every morning hours, as the cock crows, so the lions’ roar in a mountain on the west coast of Africa founded by a Portuguese sailor called Pedro de Sintra in a small country called Sierra Leone. It was first named Sierra Loya because of its mountains that resemble lions. Later, it was called Sierra Leone, a country that has been considered a paradise on land.
Sierra Leone was not class because it was closer to the Atlantic ocean; neither was it classed because of the many beaches. It was described as one of the paradises on earth because of the rich natural resources the Almighty God has bestowed upon this great nation. It might surprise you that the country in question is very rich in natural resources ranging from Minerals like golds, diamonds, iron ore, and more. Is this your first time learning about Sierra Leone? You might think this is where it ends, but guess what that’s just the beginning, furthermore, is water coastal and marines resources, most notably the fish, and fuel discovered recently. Hence, that is not all, finally is one of the most important ones which is Land resources. Sierra Leone is a country that has rich fertile soil, and agriculture has a great potential for growth if only, oh if only? We can explore the impacts of natural resource management, challenges, and the possible solutions we can implement in making sure that these resources are a blessing not a curse to the Sierra Leonean citizens.
Why are they Key Economic Development Players?
As we coined the just concluded sentence, Sierra Leone is a country that is very rich in terms of natural resources, as stated above. Thus, Mineral and Agricultural resources have been a key factor in the country’s economic development. In breaking it down, the mineral sector alone constitutes a total of 90% of the country’s exported commodities in the year 2016 (SLEITI, 2016). Besides, this sector has been consistently contributing around 20% to the government’s annual revenue in recent years; additionally, it has a significant 3% of its total employment rate (SLEITI, 2019). On the other is Agriculture, which is considered the limelight and the backbone of Sierra Leone. In a study done by Kamara (2015), according to Statistics Sierra Leone, the agricultural sector contributes up to 75% of the country’s economic labor force.
Furthermore, since the genesis of Sierra Leone, these two sectors have been contributing significantly to the economic growth of the country. Hence, most notably, in 2018, it accounted for up to 30% of the country’s total export, and the export rate of timber and palm oil increased by 116 million dollars in this same year (SLEITI, 2019). However, this pegged the question if the just mentioned industries have been a curse or a blessing to Sierra Leone? However, leaves room for the question if the impacts mentioned above have reflected on the lives of Sierra Leone citizens?
In the late 90s and early 2000s, Sierra Leone experienced an eleven-year civil war that brought many adverse effects to this great nation. In paying for this cause, there was massive smuggling of diamonds during this period in exchange for guns and ammunition, which led to this great nation’s diamonds being called blood diamonds. Finally, in 2002, Sierra Leoneans heard the news that they have been crying for about a decade, which is for the country to be declared war free. Finally, the lions in the mountains can roar again, but the citizens of this nation continue to grab the word hope. A hope that Sweet mama Salone will be great again, with the hope that their resources will reflect on their lives, with the hope that Sierra Leone will be a better place to live; however, this was not the case.
The current challenges in these two industries in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone has continued to struggle to manage its natural resources over the past decades. These problems are also existing within the two key players of the country’s economic growth: the Mineral and Agricultural industries. In the mineral industry alone, between 50-90% of the diamonds and golds have been smuggled out of the country (SLEITI, 2019); This has been due to the high level of illegal mining districts; these gems stones are more abundant and can be mine. These places were also targeted during the war, but few are Kono, Tongo, and likes. It is believed that this results from the weak governmental policies found within the rule of law and the limited funding from the government of Sierra Leone. However, this has resulted in the country having fewer mining companies in this industry, and also, the existing ones have poor corporate social responsibility records (Transparency International, 2018).
Hence, in the first paragraph’s closing sentence, one can see why the statement “oh if only” was mentioned. It does end there the agricultural sector, which is also a key player in the economic growth of Sierra Leone, has been facing issues such as land grabbing from small scale farmers. Furthermore, this has also led to a massive illegal trade of agricultural produce within Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia’s borders. Another burning issue residing in Sierra Leone has been the low road networks between the provinces and the capital city Freetown.
However, there is a common saying in the native language of Sierra Leone, which is Krio, which says “AS YU MEK YU BED, NA SO YU GO LEDכN PAN AM”; This means as you make your bed, so you shall lie on it (Andersen, 2020). The proverbs affirm that Sierra Leone has faced inevitable consequences because of its failure to properly manage its natural resources. Some of these have been a significant decrease in the country’s export rate, especially agricultural products. That is not the end; over the years, the increase in the price of agricultural products in Freetown’s capital city has been an enormous cause for alarm. However, if we all live in a world of imagination, for a moment just reflects how a country that is so blessed with fertile soil can be importing their staple food, which is rice. Furthermore, with all the austerity in the country, another problem of the day has been environmental disasters, most notably mining areas. One of them is the Kono district, where one of the biggest mining companies is located in Sierra Leone.
Hence, these disasters have claimed lives, people been displaced, and forced to relocate. However, Sierra Leone citizens have not been enjoying any benefits from these problems while they are paying the prices for the same problems. However, quickly closing this chapter, it has also led to a significant increase in the Job Unemployment rate of Sierra Leone, with above 48% of the youthful population being irregularly employed ( is either they self-employed or have a job contract of 12 years); furthermore, approximately 12% are jobless within the country (International Labor Force, 2017). In folding it up, these problems from all these different drainages have flushed down to the ocean of the general and most significant problem, which is the high poverty rate experienced by many Sierra Leoneans.
How can we improve on the current actions?
However, in another proverb again from this same great nation, Sierra Leone goes like this “BAD BUSH Nכ DE Fכ TROWE BAD PIKIN.” It means a bad child may not be thrown into the bush (Andersen, 2020). This justifies that it is the responsibility of Sierra Leoneans to bring the change which they seek for Sierra Leone; this can be achieved by improving on these sectors, which we can confirm to be the key players in the economic development of the country.
In light of the above, there is a need to bring a change to this sector of Sierra Leone, and we have vividly seen other countries within the continent that have proven that we as Africans can change and take ownership in developing our countries. The question which every Sierra Leonean, especially the government, should ask themselves is if Rwanda, a landlocked country, did it, who are they not to do it also. Furthermore, the first step which ended to be taken by the Sierra Leonean government is to improve on its policies for both the Mining and Agricultural Industries of the country, notably is to make sure that these policies should be implementable and corruption-free. However, suppose the country has tackled the issue of water policies. In that case, the government can move to the next step of investing more into these industries; If with less investment, they are critical players to the economy; imagine the amount of impact they will create if more money is invested into these industries. In addendum, we will improve on the road networks. We are not talking about Freetown’s roads to district headquarters, but we need roads from district headquarters to the in-depth village where we can get agricultural products to the capital city.
Let’s embrace a new Sierra Leone
In crowing it all, if you are a citizen of this great nation, just put on your imagination suites for a bit, how it will look like if the above solutions are implemented in Sierra Leone. For a while, imagine having Sierra Leone with a very high job employment rate, Sierra Leone where there is massive and consistent economic growth, a Sierra Leone with a sustainable revenue generation that can cater to the unborn generation. A Sierra Leone where its citizens can proudly boast of an improved natural resources management system within the governance system with less corruption. Oh, I wish this was how the one named anthem of West Africa, Sierra Leone. Oh, I wish for a Sierra Leone where the natural resources can be a blessing to its citizens, not a curse; oh, we wish to see a better Sierra Leone, but we can conquer and achieve the impossible with togetherness and make mama Salone a better place, but until then let’s continue to grab the word HOPE.
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