Today, 27th April 2022 is Sierra Leonean independence Day.  There will be a celebration of freedom, nationhood, history and patriotism. Some of us Sierra Leoneans,  both at home and in the diaspora, will once again – as we do at this time of the year – reflect on what freedom has meant for our nation.  And as before, it will invoke all sorts of complex emotions.

We continue to ask ourselves: How has Sierra Leone’s independence worked for us these last 61 years?  Has it even been a good thing?

Thinking about the future, how can we make a greater contribution moving forwards so that Sierra Leonean’s can enjoy the freedom and benefits that being independent should bring. Sierra Leonean’s have been through a lot, but while our hearts beat, hope lingers!

A single thread of hope is still a very powerful thing and on this independence day, I would like to offer a vision of hope.  It’s not what we look at that matters.  It’s what we see!

Imagine Sierra Leone, a country where wildlife thrives, and people can too.

Sierra Leone’s land and seas are rich in wildlife, it’s a country where people can live in harmony with nature.  The economic well-being and quality of life for Sierra Leoneans can be improved if we move to protect and maintain living landscapes, living seas and a society where nature matters, to ensure equity, good health care, consistent education, nutritious food and clean water for all.

The major natural resources in Sierra Leone include mineral resources, land for agricultural production, and tourist attractions.  Sierra Leone is blessed with abundant natural resources but we need to look after them.  The money we make is a symbol of the value we create.  Money flows in the direction of value.   Although a small country we are blessed with something of immense value and it is right under our noses.

Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.  It is something in the world that holds true value.  Not many countries are blessed with what Sierra Leone has and it can be monetized, if we move to protect it.

Imagine the future…

Wildlife, wild places and natural habitats in Sierra Leone will be abundant and thriving again.  They will be a significant, commonplace and everyday part of the countries, towns and cities, our coasts and seas.  Our landscape will be full of flowers and alive with birdsong.  Wherever you are, you will be able to see and hear wildlife nearby, and know that even the most rare, threatened and endangered species have populations that are stable, resilient and recovering in Sierra Leone.

Out at sea, communities of slow-growing species such as sponges, sea-fans and sea-pens will be re-establishing themselves across much of the seabed;  whales, dolphins and porpoises will be abundant and commercial fish stocks will have recovered. Sierra Leone will be recognised as somewhere where people live long, healthy, active and fulfilling lives. Among other things, this will be driven by the quality of our natural environment and our society’s recognition of the contribution it makes to the quality of life, health and prosperity of people living in Sierra Leone.

Human development can only be sustainable if it does not destroy the ecosystems on which people and wildlife depend.  Preventing species extinctions is an enormous challenge and depends on a sound understanding of the complex interdependencies between people and nature.  Even in wilderness areas where there is little human presence, there is still a need to manage and protect wildlife from human effects, for example through protected area management.  Over half of us now live in urban environments, increasingly disconnected from the natural world on which we depend – there is a real opportunity and need to bring humans close to wildlife, to breathe life into cities and contribute to wellbeing and community life.  We need a body akin to a Sierra Leonean Zoological Society (ZSL).   There is another gem that is right under our noses.

Introducing Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

They have been preserving Sierra Leone’s Wildlife since 1995 and can help us achieve a better future.  Located just on the outskirts of Freetown, in the Western Area Peninsula National Park, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary was founded in 1995 by conservationist Bala Amarasekaran and his wife Sharmila.

Initially established to enforce wildlife laws and rescue and rehabilitate critically endangered orphaned Western chimpanzees, Tacugama has grown into a diverse conservation organization.  Caring for close to 100 chimpanzees on-site, Tacugama is also actively engaged offsite in community outreach, wildlife field research, environmental sustainability, conservation education and alternative livelihoods programs. Tacugama is also an eco-tourism hub for Freetown – home to 6 eco-lodges, and a variety of activities for both tourists and Freetowners alike to participate in.  Tacugama aims to be at the forefront of preserving Sierra Leone’s remaining wildlife through education, community support and eco-tourism.  As Sierra Leone’s primary conservation organization, their mission is to use education and community conservation to eliminate the wildlife trade and safeguard the remaining natural habitats in the country. Through law enforcement, eco-tourism, livelihoods programs, and chimpanzee rehabilitation, they are engaging local communities and multidisciplinary stakeholders to secure the future of Sierra Leone.

Can you help?

Tacugama have established a UK Charity in addition to the work they do in Sierra Leone.  Can you help safeguard Sierra Leone’s most cherished wildlife?

  • Adopt a chimp ambassador and support Tacugama’s mission today!
  • Join Tacugama’s growing volunteer programme and make a difference in the world of conservation.
  • Treat yourself to a night under the canopy in one of our six eco-lodges nestled in the heart of the rainforest

Are you in the Sierra Leonean Diaspora?

A country’s diaspora, and the diasporas it hosts, can be a huge asset for its development. We are a channel through which not only money, but also much tacit knowledge, can flow, we are a potential source of opportunities for trade, investment, innovation, and professional networks.  Governments should have a diaspora strategy that builds on natural feelings of identity and affection to cultivate this social network as a powerful source of economic progress.    If we want to harness the value that is under our noses, we can do much more to raise the importance of environmental awareness with our Government and other stakeholders, we can raise awareness of the depth and breadth of wildlife, flora and fauna we are blessed with and the eco-tourism potential it holds.  We can all become ambassadors for our cherished Tacugama and the great work they have been dedicated to for decades, because if they thrive, we thrive.

Please do check out their website and get in touch: 

Maria Bradford