“Although the government is going to commit the seed financing to this fund, let me state here that when it comes to water security, the role and level of political will to manage and protect the ecosystem far outweighs the funding gap” This was the highlight of the keynote speech delivered by the Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, H. E. Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh while launching the Western Area Peninsula Water Fund (WAPWF) at the Guma Valley Dam at Mile 13, in the Western Area Rural District.
The Vice President said the government needs to multiply four-fold (from 7% to 28%) its annual budget allocation to the water sector totaling US$1.2Bn, if the country is to attain sustainable water security by 2030, acknowledging that the government still has a long way to go in meeting SDG6 targets by 2030, and that working with development partners, businesses and communities to collectively address water-related challenges to secure a clean and sustainable water supply and access through supporting activities such as reforestation, soil conservation, and land use planning, is key on government’s agenda.
The WAPWF is a nature-based solution that provides effective and financially sound means to address the growing water security challenges facing Freetown and its environs, targeting a population of almost two million people. The Fund is also a public-private partnership investment scheme of US$ 20M that aims to protect and restore critical ecological infrastructure within the Western Area Peninsula, and will generate US$ 55M in economic benefits over a 30-year timeframe. In other words, every US$ 1 invested by the Western Area Peninsula Water Fund is expected to generate at least US$ 2.70 worth of benefits to stakeholders.
Freetown’s population has grown nearly 10-fold over the past 50 years and natural forest cover on the Western Area Peninsula has declined by about 70%. By 2028, the city’s population is expected to increase by some 535,000 people, while the forested ecosystem that already struggles to supply Freetown with water may lose some 1,400 hectares (more than 8%) of its remaining trees.
The Western Area Peninsula forests play an essential role in supplying water and in maintaining water quality. Forests serve as natural water collection, filtration, and delivery systems. Forested catchments in the Western Area Peninsula National Park (WAPNP) provide about 90% of Freetown’s water supply. Investments in engineered infrastructure solutions to combat water scarcity are important. However, without investments in ecological infrastructure to secure and augment water supply, even the best-built infrastructure will not have enough water to store and transport.
In August 2023, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation- Dr. Sao-Kpato Hannah Isata Macarthy and the Director-General of the National Water Resources Management Agency- Junisa P. Bangali ESQ. briefed the Chief Minister- Dr. David Sengeh on the progress of the WAPWF, which will serve as a pilot for the National Water Fund. “We have done some substantial work on making the Greenbelt as physical as possible, with the help of CRS. We will soon present the Greenbelt Committee Report to you for possible review, so that it meets the required purpose.” The Minister said.
In his response, the Chief Minister commended the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation for the good work around the water fund and pledged his office support to ensure that it works well.
The Western Area Peninsula Water Fund brings together diverse partners from the private and public sectors, all united to help restore the Western Area Peninsula national part to its past glory, and in the process protect 90% of Freetown’s water sources which are housed in the peninsula rainforest.