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Conservation and Biodiversity

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

Oil effects: Sierra Leone's once-pristine landscape is being replaced by palm trees

Joseph Rahall, Executive Director eco-NGO 'Green Scenery', at the offices in Freetown, Sierra Leone.When Joseph Rahall speaks about oil plantations, you can hear the emotion in his voice and sense the fear he has for Sierra Leone.

He says of a once-pristine landscape: “You stand there, and all you can see is palm-trees for miles.”

In a country desperate for investment and jobs, the lure of the palm-oil money from large multi-nationals can be hard to resist. But Rahall fears the price to be paid is sovereignty.

Founder of Green Scenery (in 1989), an NGO partially funded by Irish Aid, he is driven by a desire to see fair treatment for landowners by the multinational palm oil companies. The group’s aim is to help local people look after their own interests, with minimal interference – they offer training and advice only.

He visited Dublin last year through the Sierra Leone Ireland Partnership and spoke of plantation-leases already occupying one-fifth of Sierra Leone’s land-mass – this in a coastal country smaller than Ireland.

And Rahall says there is an urgent need to question this, with many more companies eyeing up the lush greenlands of Sierra Leone. Its people endured a brutal civil war which raged for a decade until a peace accord in January 2002. Since then peace has brought rewards and but also financial challenges.

He says: “My fear is about the country’s security. Some of this land is being concentrated in the hands of few companies. Imagine if up to half to the country is gone in 50 to 100 years. As a government, what can you do then?

  • Written by Ed Gillespie

Love trumps loss when saving species

Love trumps loss when saving species. Photo: Flickr/gynti_46 (edit: OurWorld 2.0).Source: OurWorld 2.0

The limpid eyes of an endangered species of charismatic mega-fauna stare pleadingly from the page, accompanied by a suitably dramatic headline: “On the brink” or “Last chance to save”.

We’re all familiar with the imploring, urgent tone of so much of the campaigning communication around nature conservation, where the words biodiversity and extinction are almost automatically conjoined. In fact, they’re so inextricably linked that campaigners often seem to find it difficult to mention species without the qualifier, “under threat”.

But beyond the arguably effective role that the notion of a “world without tigers” may play in fund-raising for conservation campaigns, does this persistent message of loss actually engage the public beyond the minority of “biocentric” people for whom biodiversity has intrinsic value?

Protected areas can cut poverty, study claims

Cassava harvesting, near Khorat, Thailand. Neil Palmer (CIAT).

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[BANGKOK] Possibly the most controversial debate in conservation policy — whether protected areas harm the lives of the people living around them — has taken a step forward with the publication of a controlled trial of communities living at different distances from national parks.

The creation of protected areas to conserve biodiversity has caused concern because they can reduce communities' farming and hunting opportunities and access to other natural resources.

But a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week (25 May), has found that, on average, communities living close to national parks in Costa Rica and Thailand are actually richer than similar communities living further away.

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