The UNOSSC Cities Project completed a one-week needs assessment for the Koidu–New Sembehun City of Sierra Leone on 29 November. Convening experts from one municipal government, four UN agencies, and one private company, encompassing mining, agriculture, road infrastructures, and waste management, this assessment has been the most full-fledged, extensive, and integrated one led by the Cities Project.
Experts for the assessment were summoned from the United Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), United Nations Development Programme in Sierra Leone (UNDP SL), United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN Habitat), World Food Programme in Zimbabwe (WFP Zimbabwe), the Environment and Waste Management Center of Xiamen City, China, and a private company with experience in infrastructure construction globally.
Apart from undertaking needs assessment activities in their best suitable capacities, experts also pinpointed potential areas to create synergies. For instance, although embryonic, discussions have been afoot on establishing a city-to-city partnership between Xiamen city and Koidu for South-South exchange on waste management. It is also promising to consolidate the UN Habitat Waste Wise Cities Campaign with the Cities Project in assessing and improving Koidu’ waste management. UNDP SL had multiple ongoing projects, such as the Accelerator Labs, to integrate into the forthcoming Koidu pilot project.
Koidu is located in the Kono District in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone with a population of around 128,000. The city is a major business, commercial and diamond trade center, and lies approximately 285 miles east of the capital, Freetown. It is locally governed by a directly elected city council, headed by the Mayor Mr. Samba Komba Matthew Sam. The Economic Community of West African States propelled the first contact between the Cities Project and Koidu who then shared with the Cities Project a list of priorities.
The mission agenda was densely populated with consultations and site visits. The city council hosted the delegation in the midst of many responsibilities. Their officials, including the Mayor himself, participated in most of the activities, such as visiting reclaimed rice fields, fishponds, poultry farms, food markets, parks, a dumpsite, a hospital, a power plant, and a vocational school.
Initial findings indicated that the city’s agriculture sector was constrained mainly by the impaired access to agricultural inputs and technologies, limited access to markets, lack of access to financial services, inadequate land management and insufficient land reclamation. Little progress was made by large scale mining companies in achieving a broad-based sustainable development, as a result of which their surrounding mining communities remain the poorest in the country. Small-scale artisanal mining continues to be plagued by job insecurity, environmental degradation, unfavorable working conditions, poor pay, and sometimes violence. Waste management of the city is at its infancy stage, with very limited amount of solid waste being collected or recycled and zero level of control over the current dumpsite.
More intriguing is the fact that challenges, needs, and opportunities in the four sectors appeared rather interrelated. For example, as men left farmlands for mining activities, women took over more than half of work in the fields, as a result of which agriculture machinery must be gender friendly. Poor road conditions and poor legal protection of arable land from irresponsible mining activities hampered agriculture development. Abandoned mined out pits posed massive treats to human settlement and livelihood security, but ore crushing produced by industrial mining companies can be utilized for constructing feeder roads. Proper waste management can prevent agriculture land from being flooded as a result of clogged drainages….to name just a few.