Conservation and Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone
Conservation is an intensely political exercise and can be heavily contested.
It inherently involves limiting or controlling the access to natural resources that communities and outsiders may depend on for their livelihoods. If managed effectively, conservation can play a role in peacebuilding and development in Sierra Leone by strengthening natural resource governance; developing sustainable livelihoods; creating employment opportunities; generating tourist revenue; and promoting dialogue, trust-building and cooperation. However, if poorly managed, conservation can inadvertently cause and exacerbate disputes over natural resources and introduce new or additional economic burdens or risks on local communities.
The aim of this paper is to assess the status of conservation in Sierra Leone, to outline some of the key threats to protected area management in the country and try to understand how conservation can be done in a way that is "conflict-sensitive" -- that is, how to manage protected areas in a way that does not create or exacerbate tensions and conflicts.
If managed effectively, conservation can contribute to Sierra Leone's continued development and can help to cement the country's impressive progress in peacebuilding. To succeed, the government, civil society and the international community will need to address the challenges outlined in this paper, minimize conflict risks and enhance peacebuilding opportunities. In particular, these stakeholders will have to:
- Strengthen the legislative framework for conservation;
- Facilitate coordination among stakeholders;
- Improve management of protected areas;
- Involve local communities; and
- Secure long-term funding for conservation.