The Republic of Sierra Leone has become GBIF's 64th national participant, with the signature of Martin Amara Foday, executive chairman of the Conservation Trust Fund (CTF), on the Memorandum of Understanding securing the country's voting seat on the GBIF Governing Board. Sierra Leone is the 22nd national participant from Africa and the 26th in all from the region.
CTF was established alongside the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) through a 2012 act of parliament as one of six government agencies under the country's Ministry of Environment. Their shared mission to promote biodiversity conservation, wildlife management and research in Sierra Leone aligns squarely with the mandate outlined in the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding "to support open access and use of biodiversity data, to advance scientific research and to promote technological and sustainable development."
"By becoming a GBIF Participant, Sierra Leone has taken an important step in responding to our national stakeholders's interest in developing biodiversity data systems to support and inform our policies and decision-making," said Arthur Chinsman-Williams, CTF's resource mobilization manager and newly designated head of delegation to GBIF. "The expertise and experience available through the GBIF network, both within Africa and globally, also provides a critical resource for addressing our training and capacity development needs around biodiversity data."
Nestled on the Atlantic coast between Guinea and Liberia (both GBIF participants), Sierra Leone's coastal beaches, mangrove swamps, rainforests and freshwater plains harbour a diverse range of species, rising to its eastern plateau and Mount Bintumani, the tallest peak in West Africa west of Cameroon.
More than half of the country's lands are in agricultural use (56.2 per cent), and forests account for most of the remainder (37.5 per cent). While the demands of supporting a young and rapidly growing population exert numerous environmental pressures, CTF and NPAA are rising to the challenge by steadily increasing the both protected lands and marine areas.
"We are grateful for the commitment our colleagues from Sierra Leone have already shown by joining GBIF directly as a voting participant," said Tim Hirsch, deputy director of the GBIF Secretariat. "We're eager to see how they can apply open data on biodiversity to support their full spectrum of policy needs, from conservation and species protection to climate change, food security and human health."