Article | 27 Juin, 2023

An ancient rainforest in West Africa to connecting people with conservation and restoration

The Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) celebrates 31-years of work developed by Tommy Garnett, CEC Regional Vice Chair for West and Central Africa, in his role as Founder and Executive Director of the Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA), which is working to inspire people to protect the integrity of nature in Sierra Leone, where EFA manages the Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary (


When designing and implementing biodiversity conservation and land restoration projects, having a clear vision of where we want to be is imperative. Building this vision from knowledge acquired through experiencing and learning from nature, helps one to adopt a holistic approach that integrates environmental, social, spiritual and economic dimensions; and connects people from different cultural backgrounds.

In Sierra Leone, CEC Regional Vice Chair for West and Central Africa, Tommy Garnett identified Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary as the perfect protected area in his region to raise awareness and inspire people to act for the conservation and restoration of their surroundings. The island is one of the last examples of what was once an ancient rainforest in West Africa, becoming an ideal scenario to feel, contemplate, learn about, and research a tropical rainforest in one of the most pristine state we could find nowadays; as well as the human-nature interrelations lived here. Tiwai Island has retained a rich and exciting biodiversity, it is home to a population of pygmy hippopotami, over 135 different species of birds and one of the highest concentrations and diversity of primates in the world.

"We are empowering local communities, restoring degraded environments, and contributing to poverty reduction" said Tommy Garnett

EFA seeks that every child plants and cares for a tree

The Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA) was established in 1992 to inspire and enable community-led programs for sustainable environmental management as a basis for poverty alleviation. The organization achieves this through advocacy, awareness raising, education programs and practical actions that conserve the integrity of nature and protect ecosystem services. Tommy, in his role as Founder and Executive Director of EFA works across three interconnected thematic areas Repair, Protect, and Educate.

In order to create a fundamental connection that develops a sense of community working for a common goal, EFA is promoting - "Every child plants and cares for a tree” - a flagship campaign initiative through the "Land That We Love: Sierra Leone" movement to inspire children to love and care for nature, while addressing deforestation and land degradation. Among other results, EFA has reached more than 945,000 native trees and seedlings planted and over 65,000 children have been engaged in environmental education activities during the past couple of decades.

A call to action

EFA seeks to build a coalition of partners to address these challenges during the decade ahead. “As a small, national NGO, we can only achieve meaningful results with lasting impacts, through partnership and collaboration”, said Tommy.

 A key focus of EFA’s activities during the past years (July 2021 - present) has been to intensively engage with the school children and their teachers, promoting a range of practical tools and communication strategies for mainstreaming environmental awareness, sustainability principles and responsible behavior in their day-to-day activities, in the schools and in their respective communities. Specific activities include supporting the schools with materials and training to establish tree nurseries, cleaning their school compounds and classrooms including tree planting. You can be part of this initiative! Find more information in this link