On 30th March RSPB Lancaster group and Lancaster, Morecambe and District Fairtrade Group shared a very interesting online event which started with introductions mainly outlining local aspects of RSPB and Fairtrade and then focused on the great Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone. The RSPB has helped in a project that has not only created a rainforest national park but has also produced some delicious Fairtrade chocolate!
The film “Guardians of the Rainforest” was shown which lifts my spirits whenever I watch it. It shows how cocoa farmers have come together to protect the forest, and develop their communities through Fairtrade. The challenge for the people of the forest edge is to find ways to increase their income without harming the rainforest. The film explores ‘forest friendly farming’, where cocoa farmers work together in a Fairtrade co-operative, farm organically, and respect the trees, animals and birds.
As the evening progressed my admiration for the people involved in setting up and maintaining the Gola Rainforest National Park and the Fairtrade co-operative, Golea Gorbo, increased even more.
Former RSPB Chief Technical Advisor on the Gola Programme with Sierra Leone Government, Colin Pringle, related his experience of working on a project that has done so much to protect both wildlife and people. During his talk we learned how he had collaborated with leaders representing each of the relevant Districts in Sierra Leone’s parliament referred to as “Paramount Chiefs” and he also had meetings with the President. Together they helped to set up the system and legal framework to facilitate the development of the Gola Project resulting in an area the size of Wales becoming a National Park patrolled by 150 rangers. For it to be such a success the individuals from different indigenous groups need to forget their differences when they patrol the forest.
We heard that there are very few of the striking “rock fowl” picathartes birds which build mud nests attached to rocks in the Gola Rainforest. Colin admits that he was extremely lucky to see a pygmy hippo in the wild which is also an endangered species of the Gola Rainforest. These creatures have been helped by the way the National Park and surrounding land is under “Forest Friendly Farming” usage because the areas of true rainforest are linked making their habitat effectively larger and more sustainable. This benefits us all. Loss of rainforest and its diversity is damaging to the world as a whole for many reasons.
During the session reference was made to other RSPB projects abroad. Alasdair McKee, RSPB Local Groups Officer, described the way that albatrosses have been protected from accidental death when they dive for bait on fishing lines.
Comments of appreciation included:
“I had no idea that the RSPB are involved in projects abroad and to learn the connection with Fairtrade was fascinating. We try to buy Fairtrade whenever possible.”
“It is so impressive seeing the folks working as a community, embracing conservation and reaping the rewards.”
RSPB International Work