Supporting Sustainable Agriculture
means Protecting Rainforests.
Rainforests in Sierra Leone
Only 4 per cent of the land area of Sierra Leone is covered by virgin forests
There are barely any virgin forests left in Sierra Leone with only 4 per cent of the country still covered by them. During the last 25 years, the total forested area has shrunk by more than 50 per cent. Against this background, the protection of the remaining forests becomes an increasingly urgent matter. This is especially so because forests play a key role in limiting the adverse effects of climate change. In terms of carbon dioxide emissions, since 2001 Sierra Leone has lost forests equivalent to 80 million tons of the greenhouse gas. This corresponds to the total annual Co2 output of the world’s largest per capita emitter Qatar, or Nigeria’s total yearly Co2 output (a country with more than 180 million inhabitants) respectively. Additionally, the remaining virgin forests in Sierra Leone are an important refuge for the great, Sierra Leonean biodiversity. With more than 15 primate species which are home to these forests, Sierra Leone is among the world’s most important and diverse refuges for primates. Aside from over 600 bird species, these forests also shelter the last populations of bigger mammals. Among them are the forest elephant, leopards and the pygmy hippopotamus.
Harvesting Palm Fruits, Cocoa and Avocados instead of Burning Forests
Perennial crops such as oil palms or cocoa trees are sustainable as they make slash-and-burn cultivation superfluous.
Sierra Leone consists of higher lying areas, so-called uplands, for 80 per cent of its land area. These areas are the basis for the ecosystems of savannah and rainforest. Traditionally, after burning and clearing these areas are used for cultivation and annual crops. However, with slash-and-burn agriculture soils are depleted after one to two years which forces smallholders move on and burn new forest areas. To promote sustainability GreenRise encourages the cultivation of perennial crops on the uplands such as oil palms, cocoa trees, coffee plants, avocado trees or mango trees. Once planted they thrive over decades and make the burning of forests mostly superfluous. This positively impacts the climate footprint because these perennial agricultural forests act as natural carbon reservoirs. Simultaneously, these perennial tree cultures provide a considerably more complex agro-ecology and habitat for the local flora and fauna than the ever-burning slash-and-burn fields.
Visit of smallholder oil palm field close to Kambama, a village located in the rainforests in Southern Sierra Leone
Farmers engaging in the arduous, manual land preparation of a recently cleared piece of land
Growing Rice on Grasslands Eases Pressure on Rainforests
Cultivating grasslands more productively eases the land pressure on the remaining primary forests in Sierra Leone and provides a chance for natural reforestation.
Neither savannah nor rainforest vegetation is able to grow in these grasslands which is why the area is suitable for sustainable cultivation of anual crops such as rice; Kambia, Northern Sierra Leone
In Southern Sierra Leone where GreenRise is active with agricultural projects we discourage and do not engage in slash-and-burn agriculture. Also, we do not use any land where rainforests can potentially thrive. We support farmers in the cultivation of annual crops such as rice exclusively on so-called lowlands which make up approximately 20 per cent of the total land area of Sierra Leone. As a consequence of the existence of two very distinctive seasons (one dry and one rainy season), these low lying lands are flooded for several months of the year. As the floods can be as high as 2 meters the entire vegetation on these lands is flooded and is literally drowned. During the peak of the rainy season, Sierra Leone experiences more precipitations than in the Amazon rainforest. Thus, except for vast grasslands which regrow during the dry seasons no complex eco-systems can develop on these flooded lowlands. In Southern Sierra Leone thousands of hectares, these fertile grasslands are lying fallow. As a result of the more intensive cultivation of these grasslands, the local villages do not need to continue with the slash and burn practices on adjacent forest areas. Thus, these forest areas are given the chance to gradually regrow.
Impressions from Kambama
In Kambama, a small village in Southern Sierra Leone situated close to the vast Gola rainforests, smallholder farmers successfully cultivate oil palms, cocoa and coffee plants which grow amid the natural forest vegetation. Through the earnings which come from the sale of these cash crops the village has been able to largely do without slash-and-burn agriculture.