Development and the liberal lean towards instant gratification is capable of destroying tourisms' bright future here in Sierra Leone.
The youths at John Obey have been pushed from the bush where they used to go to cut wood to sell as a conservation programme has been implemented to protect the rapidly decreasing forests on the peninsula. From the forests to the beaches….. Sadly these men are now making a small fortune loading up trucks with sand from the beach to supply the construction boom in and around Freetown. At the moment there are about 10 trucks coming down to load up every day and as we move further into the dry season this number will increase to almost 50 trucks a day. This is massively disruptive to the environment and Hamilton beach in Freetown has already been raped to the point of no return with buildings and homes falling into the sea.
After breaking through the reluctance to speak about the sand mining with the local youths it seems that the money being made from the sand mining on Obama looks like this. A 10-tyre lorry, which retails at 700,000Le (140€) in town will pay:
130,000Le (26€) to the boys to fill it with sand
20,000Le (4€) to the local council as tax
20,000Le (4€) to the community
20,000Le (4€) to the driver manifest (makes its way back to the local community)
A truck can be loaded in under an hour and at peak times each boy can earn up to 200,000Le (40€) per day. This is over 10 times more than the average local daily rate of payment, which will be impossible to compete with. Stopping sand mining is possible but it will put a group of over 30 young men out of work and leave them feeling aggravated unable to provide for their families. An alternative source of income is needed but unfortunately the community is looking to anyone but themselves to provide this employment.
Tribewanted, Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and other business people with vested interests in the area have been campaigning to educate and sensitize locals about the need to protect the beaches. Logically it makes perfect sense to think about the long-term affects of taking sand away at a rate that cannot possibly be sustained and replaced by the seas. And strategically leveraging the huge contribution sustainable tourism could make if the beaches were protected and thinking about the future of the community and the local wildlife. However like most things in life it’s just not that simple and logic is often defied and subordinated to survival, opportunity, greed and desire …
At John Obey we have reached the point where the District Council understand the plight and have admitted that they would be ready to support the cause and make this a topic high on the agenda of the new Chairman once he is instated after the results have been announced. Getting the political will behind the issue of sand mining will hopefully have an immediate impact and hopefully we can take advantage of the changing power and ensure protecting the beautiful beaches gets the attention they deserves.
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