The city council of Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown, was announced as one of the prestigious Earthshot Prize finalists for 2023 with its innovative project, Freetown the Treetown. Whilst Freetown is on the frontline of global climate change, its people are rapidly becoming world leaders in community initiatives to combat the environmental crisis.
Founded by Prince William in 2020, the Earthshot Prize celebrates innovative solutions to the world’s climate and environmental challenges. The awards are centred around a feeling of “urgent optimism” – the belief that, by acting soon, humans can repair the damage done to our world. The Earthshot Prize is based on five distinct goals: Protect and Restore Nature; Clean Our Air; Revive Our Oceans; Build a Waste-Free World; and Fix Our Climate. Each year, the project seeks out five entrepreneurs, activists, innovators, and leaders whose projects embody these goals, awarding £1 million to aid their solutions.
Freetown City Council was a finalist in the Protect and Restore Nature category with its Freetown the Treetown initiative, led by Manja Kargbo. The scheme is a city-led “pay-to-grow” project, through which the people of Freetown are paid to plant and monitor trees, tracking progress on an online platform. Alongside this, the city council is also working with the local community to build awareness of the importance of trees to the climate and environment – the project has planted one million trees by 2024.
Kargbo and her team are fiercely passionate about working to combat the impacts of climate change in Freetown, Sierra Leone and worldwide. In 2017, floods hit the city, devastating the landscape and taking the lives of 1,000 people. Recent rapid development in Freetown has also resulted in the loss of millions of trees in the city, with around 70% of trees having been deforested. Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, former Mayor of Freetown, commented, “Freetown has been on the frontlines of global climate change and our people are already directly impacted by the realities of a changing climate that creates stronger storms”.
Now, the team behind the Freetown the Treetown project are harnessing the power of community engagement, buy-in and participation, alongside progressive technology to track the progress of the initiative. Aki-Sawyerr continued to describe how the team hopes that Freetown the Treetown will serve as inspiration to cities across the globe.
Freetown the Treetown is one of many climate-focused projects the council are participating in, others of which include the Women4Climate Freetown Mentorship Programme, the Reinventing Cities initiative and the city’s participation in the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies. Visit here for more information about the work of Freetown City Council.
Within this atmosphere of optimism and increasing investment in tourism, there is no better time to visit Sierra Leone than in 2024. Having recently been listed in National Geographic Traveller’s Cool List 2024 and as one of Conde Nast Traveller’s top destinations to visit in Africa for the year ahead, Sierra Leone is set to become a trending destination over the coming months.
A new airport in Freetown opened in 2023, widening access to the country, with further expansion planned for 2024 and beyond. Moreover, new roads are being built across Sierra Leone, granting access to off-radar national parks and traditional villages. Travellers in 2024 can choose from numerous new hotel openings and expansions, including a new 200-room Hilton in Freetown, glamping options in the previously inaccessible Turtle Islands, and plans afoot for a new resort in partnership with W Hotels and The Peninsula City in the upcoming years.
For more information on the Sierra Leone Tourism Board (NTB), please visit www.ntb.gov.sl. For more information on visiting the destination, visit https://tourismsierraleone.com. Rainbow Tours’ ten-night Sierra Leone Discovery trip is priced from £3,992 per person, including flights, accommodation, meals and transfers as specified, activities and excursions as listed and a private guide throughout. www.rainbowtours.co.uk; 0203 131 5311