Mair Evans and Philip Clarke visited Bo between January and February 2019. The main purpose and focus of the visit was to deliver some further training and support in urban planning for Bo City Council (BCC) as part of the One World Link’s support for the wider work being undertaken on behalf of the Prince’s Foundation “Rapid Urbanisation Toolkit”.
The aim of the three-day workshop was to:-
Review the SE cluster “consistency” of five Wards in Bo including the Eastern Police barracks and the town expansion area.
Understand and bring together the planned interventions and identification of land for community uses:- (A) Within built-up areas and (B) On land for possible future expansion.
Identify both short term objectives (quick wins) and longer term strategic objectives for the development of this area.
Map out and prepare action plans to safeguard land for development
Glenn Fleet and Derek Greedy have been visiting Bo regularly over the past ten years, advising the council on waste management. Following the civil war the disposal system had stopped completely and rubbish was becoming a major problem and health hazard. From early beginnings where One World Link facilitated funding by UNDP and later the British aid programme, the project has now extended to two further cities, Makene and Kenema, working with a German NGO.
Their visit in May 2018 was a technical mission was to provide training and capacity building to field technicians and managers of the three cities everything from waste collection to disposal and the management of controlled waste sites and they provided manuals for site management. A major component was training in organic waste shredding and composting, enabling green waste to be recycled back to the land.
Developing a Toolkit for Planners as Bo continues to expand dramatically.
Bo currently has a population of 175,000 people according to the latest 2015 census, but experts predict that this will grow dramatically over the next few years to as high as 583,000 by 2045. That’s a growth of over 330% in 30 years!
OWL has linked up with Prince Charles’ “Prince’s Foundation for Building Communities” (PFBC) to help develop a toolkit for use by town planners in countries across the developing world in cities, like Bo, facing rapid urban expansion. Although this is likely to eventually be an on-line resource, PFBC was keen to trial the toolkit by delivering the programme in person, and OWL suggested Bo as a pilot city.
Developing a planning framework for Bo as we would understand it in the UK is extremely challenging as there is no effective planning law to control land use. Nonetheless there was real and genuine enthusiasm across both Bo City and Bo District councils to develop a vision for how Bo may grow and think about how this may be achieved.
The workshop took place on 4th and 5th December 2017 and was aimed directly at the two local councils and leading local stakeholders. Three members of UK OWL helped in preparing for the workshop. We were keen to use OWL’s profile in the city as way of encouraging support for the event. The conference facilities at the recently upgraded OWL Centre provided an ideal venue for the event which was attended by almost 50 people over the two days.
At the workshop itself, we discussed a “vision” for Bo, agreed where major growth should (ideally) be directed and began to consider the practical infrastructure and other implications of this. A first priority growth area is the land around the airstrip and close to the campus of Njala University to the south-west of the city, and we undertook a site visit to this area.
The morning of the second day included a stakeholder consultation meeting which 30 people attended. The vision and emerging plans were shared and there was a full and frank exchange of views on how this work could be taken forward.
The workshop was a great success. There was a genuine understanding of the benefits for everyone of working together to agree where and how grow will occur.
It was also great to see OWL fully involved in hosting the event. We have committed to continue to do what we can to support this important work moving forward.
The One World Link Centre in Bo has just benefitted from some significant investment.
The OWL Centre on Mattru Road in Bo forms the hub of OWL’s activities in the city. Completed in 2007 it offers two conference / meeting rooms of different sizes, an office for OWL and a six-bedroom guest house. It is where OWL members and friends visiting from the UK always stay in Bo.
The OWL Committees in both Bo and Warwick agreed that after ten years some investment was needed, both to maintain the centre and also to improve facilities it can offer. The meeting rooms in particular are an important source of income and are well used by groups requiring meeting space in the city.
Under the management of Maada Fobay and the Bo OWL Committee, we have recently purchased; a large television (with a digital satellite subscription – particularly useful for showing educational programmes for teacher training), a data projector and screen, some moveable display boards and new curtains. The centre has also been repainted and in the yard the concrete surface has been replaced and the murals repainted. (The one of Jane Knight now has a distinct regal look to it!) Improvements have also been made to the solar lighting. Further planned improvements include buying more chairs and tables for the meeting rooms.
Stepwise Transformation of an old illegal dumpsite in the City of Bo for recreation
20-acre piece of land was leased out to Bo town in early 1950s for development into a public park to be named “Peaston Park”, the town council was to regularly pay annual lease rent to the land holding families (three families) .
Transition of Bo from town to city status, degeneration of Sierra Leone into 11 years of civil war and lawlessness and a lull that ensured in keeping with the agreements lead to some land holding families and town officials to informally repossess and hive off the land for private development.
The 20-acre parcel of land was overtime encroached and transformed into mixed development leaving only 3.6 acres that was turned into an illegal dumpsite, a hideout for criminals, and other small scale businesses
Waste piled up over the years to more than three metres high, temporary structures continued to spread on top of the waste piles, some section turned into open defecation sites while other areas remained under continuous fire making it one of the worst pollution sources in the city.
The law of Sierra Leone gives the right to an individual to own a piece of land as long as he/she has illegally been operating on it for more than 10 years without objection from any claimant. Even though it was not clear how long the illegal settlement on Bomeh dumpsite had been, the repossession had to be a negotiated.
A working committee comprising the land holding families, paramount chief, the Bo city council, the civil society, Environmental protection agency among others was set up and headed by the senior district officer.
The team did an assessment of the illegal settlement (including actual ownership) and their values at the Bomeh site and a time line for relocation including nominal compensation rate to enable them remove their structures
Proposed development design was prepared and approved by the working committee
Political goodwill was also sought by organizing a delegation to the Vice President to present the proposed design for Bomeh and hence the reason for his support.
One of the business owner at Bomeh disputed the development and related relocation and sought court protection against the project listing the Paramount chief as first respondent and the Mayor of Bo city council the second. The level of interest and rejection from across the stakeholder committee against the case forced the court to visit Bomeh site from where the chief judge ordered immediate clearance and restoration of the site through the proposed project basing judgement on the potential environmental and health hazards.
All the illegal structures were marked and official notice for site clearance issued, compensation dates set and contract issued to commence site clearance
Waste volumes on areas under structures were too higher than what had been envisaged during project formulation and budgeting. The project had transported 30,000 tons of waste as was provided for in the budget, but this only covered 1.5mters top layer, more than 2 metres of clearance still required to reach the level upon which the planned facilities could be installed.
Most parts of the site on high water table/swampy texture hence would require high volume of backfilling during fencing and levelling for the intended aesthetics
Budget deficit and call for the review of the site plan to reduce on costs
Development status and way forward
The entire 3.6 acres cleared of all illegal structures and 30,000 tons of waste cleared.
Tender already advertised sourcing for a contractor to build the perimeter fence to secure the land
Additional funding being sourced to meet the site clearance, backfilling and aesthetics. Strategy is to do manual screening of all inorganic waste using manual labour through food for work contractual procedure. World Food Program of the United Nations have agreed to provide assorted food items in support of the project.
A review of proposed structures for the recreation facility is ongoing to reduce on cost. Innovative approach to certain proposed infrastructure are under consideration to maintain high level aesthetics while at the same time reducing the cost – value for money
Carl Zammit provided two days of intensive training for teachers in Bo
This visit was designed to deliver training workshops for primary and secondary school teachers and also to establish links between teachers in Bo and Freetown.
I visited Bo between the 21st-24th August and was greeted on arrival by Maada, John Sandie and around 8 other members of OWL Bo who were incredibly helpful in rallying teachers for the workshops. The teachers deserve so much credit for coming – it was terrible weather (rainy season) and most were working at summer schools in the mornings. Despite this, around 25-35 attended on both days.
The first day started with some philosophising and discussion about the roles of teachers; what personalities, characteristics, and skills students should have on leaving school. This debate and feedback session went a long way in allowing different ideas from different types of teachers be exchanged it was a very fruitful and animated discussion.
We then considered the merits of student centred learning as opposed to the more regimented, rote learning that is common across much of Sierra Leone. We invented stories, made and played top trumps, worked out Sudoku problems, and played various versions of dominoes among other things! They also learned how to produce the learning resources in an easy and sustainable way to build up resource stores at their school. We rounded off the first workshop with lesson planning.
The second day focused on starter activities (including the adapted classics of hangman, bingo, categories and other puzzles) whic
h were aimed at engaging the students at the start of each lesson (the most important or ‘golden 5 minutes’). We also discussed behaviour strategies including alternatives to the cane that focus on rewarding good behaviour as opposed to punishing the bad. The teachers shared some great ideas with each other and many said that they wanted to adopt a house system in their school for merits. Finally we played some more games to promote student centred learning.
I have contacted many of the teachers since then and hope to build on the relationships. One way I am doing this is by creating 2 facebook groups – the Sierra Leone Teaching Zone and the Sierra Leone Learning Zone (the former for teachers, the latter for students). By updating with new resources, ideas, quotes, links to websites, and quizzes, I hope to keep conversing and equipping the teachers and students.
All in all it was a very fruitful trip and I can’t thank enough all the people that helped set it up. A special mention to the OWL centre caretaker Mohammed who was unbelievably helpful and cheery!
Bo schools celebrate the Day of the African Child – in style!
Schools in Bo took to the streets with a brass band and banners. They carried placards with messages such as “Parents to send your children to school”, “Lets act now to keep girls in school” and “Say No to child labour”
BDEC School Messima have completed the installation of a new water pump to the delight of children and staff. They texted “Hello all we r so happy today we the staff and pupils of the BDEC school Messima for the installation of our pump today. A big thanks to st Magretes school in the UK for sponsoring us.” The children sang “If you’re happy and you know it say Thank You…” as you can see in this video
UK Aid has also recognised the significant contribution being made by improved waste management in Bo city by contributing to a roll out programme for the cities of Kenema and Makeni adopting the good practice already established within Bo. Implemented by Welthungerhilfe, a German international non-governmental organisation, “The Improved Waste Management Project” started in Bo as a pilot and is currently being rolled out to Kenema and Makeni cities in Sierra Leone with support from the UK Government.
Glenn and Derek visited the the sites designated for waste landfill in these two cities. They made recommendations for their layout and management, with detailed advice on best practice for managing landfill and compost sites to minimise litter, odours,bird nuisance, vermin and fire risk.
Bo council have decided that the Bomerh (the old, unregulated ‘central dump’ in town) is to be converted into a public park with sports pitches. It is the last and largest of the 134 illegal dumpsites in Bo city whose clearance has been delayed due to logistics and the resources required and the need to resettle illegal settlers who had encroached some of its sections for businesses.
Work commenced in May to reprofile the 3.2-acre site. The proposed rehabilitation will provide recreational open space which is currently lacking in the city. The ambitious scheme will include a multipurpose sports surface, walkways and picnic areas. A stream passing through the site will be re-profiled to make a water feature.
At the same time the District Medical Officer of Health has openly declared that in his opinion the reduction level from 60% of the population of Bo likely to contract malaria down to 40% in Bo city can be explained by the closure of the open dumps and the improvements to waste collection and management services by the project.