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steThe STEWARD Program Widens Coalitions and Builds Capacity
Collaboration with key stakeholders in the Mano River Union member States is a top priority of the Sustainable and Thriving Environments for West-African Regional Development (STEWARD) Program. In this connection, STEWARD, in collaboration with the Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA), co-hosted the Contact Group Meeting on Natural Resource Management (NRM) at the conference room of the World Bank, on the theme: “Resource Sustainability in Sierra Leone — The current context.”
At the meeting, the NRM Contact Group participants were privileged to hear two keynote presentations: one from the World Bank Senior Governance Specialist, Christopher Gabelle,who presented the report on the 2013 study entitled, “Political Economy of Extractives Governance in Sierra Leone” and the other by Adolfo CIRES-ALONSO, the European Union Program Manager for Rural Development, Food Security and Environment on “The REDD+ Capacity Building project in Sierra Leone.” Participants also heard updates from the WHH on the WAPF project, EFA Executive Director and AminataBundu, Education Officer, on their new Learning Center.
Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA) a not-for-profit environmental organization, are developing a Biodiversity and Renewable Energy Learning Centre “the Learning Centre” to communicate and support education of individuals and institutions regarding Sierra Leone’s rich and unique biodiversity, to promote biodiversity conservation, use of renewable technologies in Sierra Leone, and to encourage sustainable use of natural resources. The centre will also promote the environmental challenges from across the region including the Western Area Peninsula Forest and the Upper Guinean Rainforest. The Learning Centre is due to open in June 2014.’
Kofi PanyinYarboi, Senior GIS Analyst for Thomson Reuters presented on Widening Coalitions and Building Capacitiesfor the STEWARD Program.
How the STEWARD Program is widening coalitions and builds capacities
STEWARD’s core mandate focuses on Biodiversity Conservation, Climate Change and Adaptation, and Water Sanitation Hygiene (WASH).Working together with the Mano River Union (MRU) secretariat, member States recently signed a Trans-boundary Agreement for the harmonization of environmental laws and management of forest reserves. There is a natural linkage between watershed management, forests and the provision of a clean and safe water supply. As such, STEWARD’s planned WASH activities with linkages will improve land management practices that are part of STEWARD’s integrated approach to regional development and natural resource management.  Access to WASH in Sierra Leone remains abysmally low particularly in rural communities, where it estimated that about 35% of the population have access to improved drinking water sources and only 6% have access to improved sanitation facilities.
Furthermore, Thomson Reuters, one of the six implementing partners of the STEWARD program continues to engage senior and high-level government officials at the presidency and ministrieson how Geographic Information System (GIS) tools and technology can be used to address the many environmental issues Sierra Leone and other MRU member States are saddled with.  In this regard GIS mini-centers have been setup at the Center for Observation, Survey and Environmental Information in Conakry, Guinea, Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and Forestry Training Institute (FTI) in Liberia. The GIS-mini center for Ivory Coast will be activated this month.  In addition to engaging and creating dialogue, STEWARD conducted several technical assistance and capacity building activities including Global Positioning System (GPS) data collection and processing training, ArcGIS Software training andMeta data cataloguing.
CARE International, an implementing partner working in the Priority Zone 1 area (Otamba-Kilimi National Park to Kuru hills and stretching to MadinaOula Sous Pre’fecture in Guinea) has been involved in Fish Farming, Village Savings and Loan (VSLA), Learning Exchanges for communities using better practices, Alternative Livelihoods, Beekeeping and the promotion of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) among other activities.
Bioclimate, STEWARD’s second implementing partner working in Priority Zone 1, has been conducting training in biodiversity,setting camera traps and developing strategies for the launch of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES).
AUDER is the STEWARD partner in Forest Guinea, Priority Zone 2, working with local forest community members to cultivate market gardening plots, promotefish farming and build fences around water sourcesto keep pigs, goats and other animals out. They have just started a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA).
FFI, STEWARD’s partner for the harmonization of policies in the Mano River Union member States will be developing the management framework for the Nimba Massif which includes discussions with scientific experts on species and ecosystem conservation targets for the Nimba Massif and liaising with developers of the East Nimba Nature Reserve management plan in Liberia.
PCI-Media Impact, STEWARD’s official partner for Communication is producing and broadcasting radio dramas in Krio, Sousou, Mano, French and Liberian Simple English across the four Mano River Union member States. Media Impact has also signed agreements with five radio stations in Sierra Leone and Guinea for broadcasting and capacity building. In March 2014, Media Impact conducted a training workshop for Liberian and Sierra Leonean journalists on Environmental reporting and a Social Marketing Campaign workshop for STEWARD partners and other institutions.

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