Environment and climate change

A major asset for the development of the tourism industry in Sierra Leone is the country's natural beauty, particularly the unique setting of the Western Peninsula. Further to this, the biodiversity of the forest reserves and protected areas bear potential for development, which remains largely untapped.


Deforestation has become a major national environmental problem, in addition to the environmental degradation caused by increasing coastal population, urbanisation, commercial activities and improper resource exploitation. Additionally, climate change related issues and pollution from various activities and sources are gradually becoming a serious problem.. There is a serious environmental governance problem, whereby several entities interface over environmental management and it is sometimes difficult to see the synergies and inter-relationships of these institutions.

As a first step, in July 2008 the Government of Sierra Leone established the Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency (SLEPA), housed in the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and Environment. SLEPA is mandated to harmonise the legislative, policy and institutional framework for natural resource management.
SLEPA will contribute complying with the obligations given through Sierra Leone signature to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA), including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.


Apart from the provision of timber and fuel wood, forests provide key ecological services to the people, including the provision of clean water and air.. Forests mitigate environmental hazards, such as floods, droughts and heavy storms, while stabilizing and controlling the erosion of the soils. Forests contribute to Sierra Leone's cultural diversity and heritage, while having spiritual and religious values. They are also a major asset for the development of ecotourism.

Sierra Leone's natural rainforest once covered more than 60% of the country, while current coverage is a mere 3%, mainly in the most remote places. Deforestation has taken place over decades due to illegal logging and timber extraction, fuel wood and charcoal production, land claims for construction, as well as through unsustainable agricultural practices, such as shifting cultivation. Illegal logging and timber trading also contributed to the fuelling of the civil wars in Sierra Leone and in neighbouring Liberia.
The Sierra Leonean authorities intend giving incentives to sustainable forest management schemes. The future for the commercialization of the Sierra Leonean timber lies in the application of sustainable extraction technologies, while following the principles of the rule of law, governance and sustainable trading, through certified timber markets (e.g. through FLEGT mechanisms).
The EU has been the lead donor in the Environment & Forestry sector in Sierra Leone and has been playing a significant role in bringing both themes on the country's political agenda.

EU funded projects in Sierra Leone – ongoing

SLEPA – Technical Assistance & Capacity Building for the Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency (EUR 1.0 million)
The overall objective is to strengthen the institutional/organizational setup and build the capacity of the Sierra Leone Environment Protection Agency (SLEPA) to effectively deliver its mandate and therefore  assisting the government in the necessary update of the country's environmental policies and sector legislation. The implementation of the SLEPA project started in the 3rd quarter 2010.

The Gola Forest – A new, practical model for achieving sustainable protected areas in post-conflict Sierra Leone, a Least Developed Country (EUR 3.0 million)
Implemented by: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL), in collaboration with the MAFFS, namely the Forestry Division and SLEPA within the MLCPE
The overall objective is to establish a functioning protected area network in Sierra Leone that protects biodiversity and supports national development priorities, notably secure the Gola Forest Reserves for biodiversity conservation and community development as a new model of sustainable natural resource management in Sierra Leone.

The Gola Forest project was launched by President KOROMA in December 2007 and the President has expressed on several occasions his intention to transform the Gola Forest Reserve into a National Park. In may 2009, President KOROMA – in the presence of President JOHNSON-SIRLEAF from Liberia – unveiled the foundation plate of the Gola Forest National Park Headquarters Office.
A study on the carbon-offset potential of the Gola Forest Reserves was key to initiate discussions on climate change and carbon trading, in particular, in Sierra Leone. During the 4th edition of the European Development Days 2009 in Stockholm, Sweden.

TBPP – Across the River: A Trans-Boundary Peace Park for Sierra Leone and Liberia (EUR 2.4 million) /
Implemented by: Vogelbescherming Nederland (VBN), CSSL, Forestry Division within MAFFS of Sierra Leone, Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), Forest Development Authority (FDA) of Liberia, RSPB, BirdLife International
The overall objective is to protect the Upper Guinea Forest estate in West Africa in critically threatened and important cross border areas and to manage it effectively. The project will support national and international partnerships for improved forest governance across the Sierra Leone – Liberia border.
The Trans-boundary Peace Park (TBPP) project was launched on 15th May 2009 by President KOROMA of Sierra Leone and President JOHNSON-SIRLEAF of Liberia at the Gola Forest Reserve.

WAPFR – Conservation of the Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve (WAPFR) and its Watersheds (EUR 2.5 million)
Implemented by: Welthungerhilfe (WHH), Environmental Forum for Action (ENFORAC), in collaboration with the Forestry Division within MAFFS and SLEPA within the MLCPE.
The overall objective is to introduce participatory processes in decision making on the sustainable use of natural resources that contribute to the reduction of rural poverty in the Western Area Peninsula (WAP) and to conserve and sustainably manage the Sierra Leonean Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve (WAPFR) and its watershed.
The WAPFR project has synergies with the EU funded projects for the Freetown Development Plan (FDP) as well as with the two projects, implemented by INGOs that focus on urban and sub-urban agriculture and are financed through the FSTP (see Food Security chapter).

EU funded projects in Sierra Leone – planned

Environmental Governance (EUR 4.0 million)
Implemented by: Consulting firms, NGOs, in collaboration with SLEPA and the MAFFS
The EU foresees to continue its support in the field of environmental governance and mainstreaming with a further EUR 4.0 millions to focus on strengthening national/local governmental institutions and non-state actors in fulfilling their roles and mandates to ensure environmental sustainability in generating income and creating jobs, while safeguarding environmental goods and services.

President JOHNSON-SIRLEAF from Liberia handing over gift to Paramount Chief of Tunkia Chiefdom

Unveiled Gola Forest National Park plate

Celebrating local communities during TBPP project launch

Intact rainforest in the Gola Forest Reserves