Our Land Our Future: A Pledge
We the people of Sierra Leone affirm that our land is our common heritage and the foundation for our development. Our land is our future, our land is our life.
We are alarmed by the unrestrained depletion of our forests, our wetlands and our coastlines. Between 1975 and 2013 our country lost 30% of its forest cover. Mining and large scale agricultural activities have displaced hundreds of families, destroyed farmland and poisoned waters.
We are outraged by the loss of lives from regular environmental disasters caused mainly by failures in regulation. We acknowledge the reality of climate change and the fact that inaction at various levels has made our nation more vulnerable to its effect. As a result, our land, our life and our future are now under threat.
Our nation can overcome this crisis. To do so we need responsible, democratic natural resource governance. We need to empower the people who depend on the land. And we need to protect the land itself.
We ask candidates in the upcoming elections to adopt this pledge by committing to the following measures. We the undersigned urge citizens to only support candidates who do so.
1) Take action to protect our future
- Reclaim and reforest all protected areas within the Freetown Peninsula and strictly prohibit all forms of encroachment.
- Protect coastal areas by preventing illegal sand mining and other harmful exploitation of sand-based minerals and coastal resources and establish community-based oversight of coastal resources including our beaches.
- Reverse the trend of national deforestation by prohibiting mining or large scale agricultural investments in forested areas and supporting community-based afforestation and conservation.
- Prioritise alternative forms of land investments that are less harmful to the environment and help achieve food security, such as smallholder farming and out-grower schemes in place of plantation agriculture.
2) Empower the people who depend on land
- Recognize the customary land rights of farming and fishing communities.
- Only allow firms to engage in mining or agriculture if the people who have customary rights to the land– not merely the chiefs–give free, prior, and informed consent.
- Ensure genuine community participation in determining the terms under which a mining or agriculture company will operate.
- Set binding social and environmental conditions that reflect the concerns of affected communities and scientific good practice.
- Establish accessible grievance redress mechanisms that provide real remedies for social and environmental violations by corporations.
3) Govern with prudence and transparency
- Conduct proper due diligence on companies seeking to invest in land and other natural resources, ensuring that such companies abide by the highest international standards and best practices, as well as the laws and policies of Sierra Leone.
- Ensure that the public, and in particular the communities directly affected, have full access to key information related to mining or agriculture projects. This includes environmental licenses, land lease agreements, community development action plans, and any private financial interest in companies held by politicians or public officials.
As citizens of Sierra Leone, we commit to working with our government to secure our land and our future.