The “Support to Sustainable Forestry in Sierra Leone” initiative, launched in 2023 and Funded by the European Union Delegation in Freetown with technical help from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, intends to contribute to sustainable forest management in Sierra Leone. The data collected by this study will be critical for making informed policy decisions to prevent deforestation, conserve biodiversity, and promote sustainable agricultural systems. The initiative seeks to increase Sierra Leone’s ecosystem production and resistance to climate change.

Outcome 1 of the project focuses on data availability, procedures for obtaining reliable data, and capacity for measuring, reporting, and verifying forest resources, including land use change. This project will employ novel technology to increase access to information and decision-making possibilities connected to forests and other land uses. The proposed actions aim to address the barriers to efficient, sustainable forest management and forest cover monitoring in Sierra Leone. This will assist to meet the requirement for current forest information, reduce data gaps, expand the capability for geospatial analysis of land use, and build an acceptable inventory design for the planned national forest inventory (NFI). The National Forest Inventory (NFI) is the foundation of the National Forest Monitoring System (NFMS), and the country will create an adaptable and suitable inventory design that includes accurate representation of land cover classes.

In this regard, FAO and the Forestry Division of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change started a two-week training and data collection activity from April 15th to 26th. The training and data gathering activity was attended by 16 participants (13 males and 3 females) from various government ministries and departments which included the Forestry Department, National Protected Areas Authority (NPAA), Environment Protection Agency (EPA), Statistics Sierra Leone, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning, Njala University, Fouray Bay College University of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI), and Gola Rainforest Company – Limited by Guarantee.

The training programme aimed to help create strong skills for collecting land cover information using an online geospatial technology called Collect Earth Online (CEO). This event generated data relevant for estimating the distribution of land cover in Sierra Leone for the purpose of designing a National Forest Inventory. The training strengthened the capacity of government institutions for accruing, storing, and processing remote sensing data for land cover classification.

Following the training, participants gained a solid grasp of the Geo-spatial data collection tool, Collect Earth Online (CEO). Participants also developed a range of valuable skills, such as survey design, rule establishment, and data quality control and assurance. Significant improvement was also noted in their capacity for image interpretation. They also learned to adhere to agreed land cover classes for data collection, resulting in the availability of a land cover dataset crucial for the National Forest Inventory (NFI) design. Results from the data collection activity will be shared with the project steering committee as well as stakeholders and interested parties.

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