Strengthening youth and women’s actions for the sustainable protection of the Guma Water Catchment

  • Country: Sierra Leone
  • Organisation: Youth Action for Relentless Development Organization (YARDO)
  • Support area: Conserving natural carbon sinks / forestry
  • IKI funding: 64,996 euros
  • Project start: 01/02/2023
  • Project end: 01/02/2024

The Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve is one of Sierra Leone’s eight biodiversity hot spots and hosts about 90 per cent of Sierra Leone’s terrestrial biodiversity. It also houses the Guma Water Catchment, which provides water to the residents of Freetown. However, despite its importance, the forest is diminishing rapidly. About 500,000 trees have been lost every year since 2009 due to logging and slash-and-burn farming among other causes. This IKI Small Grants project uses a Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) approach. It aims to secure and collaboratively rehabilitate a forested watershed. The project plants around 10,000 trees in cooperation with the #FreetownTheTreeTown initiative. The project promotes an innovative approach in the field of reforestation, in which the locals are offered financial incentives to take care of community-planted trees.


The Western Area Peninsula Forest, which is part of the Upper Guinean Forest Ecosystem, is located on Sierra Leone’s west coast. It is home to roughly 1 to 1.5 million people, which is about 20 per cent of the country’s population. The forest occupies the main part of the peninsula, covering about 17,000 hectares of closed forest. This forest reserve is one Sierra Leone’s eight biodiversity hot spots. As a result of insufficient forest management, increased agricultural pressure and logging, as well as insufficient funding for the protection of the forest, the forest reserve is rapidly diminishing.


This IKI Small Grants project reaches out to women, youths, and forest guards from the National Protected Area Authority. It directly targets 50 vulnerable women and supports them in alternative livelihoods. Furthermore, 50 youths are trained as part of the Youth Environment Corps and 20 Forest Guards are targeted to protect the forest reserve.


This project focuses on environmental education and creation of alternative livelihoods. By approaching young people, women, and forest guards, it ensures the protection of the forest reserve, tackles root causes of forest degradation, and provides the target group with alternative livelihoods. It works together with the communities and the National Protected Area Authority to map and demarcate the forest and engage in reforestation of encroached areas. In total, about 10,000 hectares of degraded land are reforested.

The reforestation is monitored with the help of a mobile app, building on a GEF Small Grants (Global Environment Facility) project.

The project is designed to be replicated in other forests under threat, especially in those that house important watersheds. To enhance the financial sustainability, Youth Action for Relentless Development Organization (YARDO- SL) is partnering with the #FreetownTheTreeTown initiative to create incentives for tree care and maintenance through carbon credit trading.

Furthermore, strategic partners in this project are both the National Protected Area Authority and the National Water Resource Management Agency as well as the local communities and the Freetown City Council to create synergies for co-monitoring of project activities and building collaborations for co-management of project outcomes.


IKI Small Grants supports YARDO-SL in their organisational capacity development through:

  • GIS mapping techniques trainings
  • Staff training on research methods and M&E framework and reporting


YARDO-SL is a registered youth empowerment agency founded in 2014. As an implementing partner to institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Youth Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, National Council for Civic Education and Development, GOAL, UNDP GEF SGP, Acumen, Bosch Alumni Network, Civicus, and others with over 300 active volunteers, the organisation has continued to implement numerous grass-roots initiatives that have already impacted thousands of lives across all regions in Sierra Leone and beyond. YARDO-SL is committed to empowering young people to overcome poverty by creating an enabling platform for young people to interact, identify, and build their capacity to proffer sustainable solutions to problems affecting their communities through multiple and integrated approaches in agriculture, environmental protection, governance, and public health in order to achieve a better society for all.