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Sierra Leone

Local government summary

Sierra Leone is a constitutional parliamentary republic with three spheres of government: central government, local councils and chiefdom councils. There is no constitutional provision for local government therefore the Local Government Act 2004 is the main legislation that provides the legal framework for local councils. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) has responsibility for implementing decentralisation and local governance reforms. There are 19 local councils made up of five city councils, one municipal council in the urban areas and, 13 district councils in the predominantly rural areas. The Local Government Act 2004 gives both the local councils and the chiefdom councils powers to raise revenue including local taxes, property rates, licences, fees and charges, mining revenues, interest and dividends etc. Transfers from central government include recurrent and development components. There are three broad types of transfers: administrative grants, grants for devolved functions and local government development grants. Under the Local Government Act 2004, 80 functions were devolved to local councils. By the end of 2010 46 of the 80 had been devolved, with the intention that the remainder of functions will be devolved by the end of 2012. The 46 currently devolved functions include but are not limited to, primary and secondary health, primary and junior-secondary education, environmental health, agriculture.

Theme: waste disposal and management

Waste management services were devolved from central government management to local authorities, along with other key basic services in the Local Government Act of Sierra Leone (2004). Despite on-going commitment from central government to decentralisation and supporting decentralised services, local authorities are under resourced and under capacitated to effectively manage waste services. There are several challenges for local waste management practitioners, in 2007 a World Bank report purported that the issues around waste management in Freetown included ‘low service coverage-averaging 40%, insufficient budgets, highly inadequate equipment, substantial inefficiencies such as high costs, low quality service, low labour productivity, poor public attitudes, and widespread illegal dumping. In addition, the long domestic insurgency heavily damaged or destroyed the existing infrastructure, and also, significantly contributed to the more than two-fold increase in population from estimated 850,000 in 1994 to the current estimates of 1.85M.’ Although the waste environment of Freetown is extreme compared other communities, one of more of these crippling issues can be found in every district in Sierra Leone and poses a major challenge to public health, environmental sustainability and progress against the related Millennium Development Goals. It is within this context that the Good Practice Scheme sought to build the capacity of local waste practitioners and administrators to better undertake solid waste management through improved governance and procurement arrangements, public sensitization and technical competence around waste separation.

Relevant MDGs: Goal 4 - Reduce child mortality

According to UNICEF, 70% of child deaths occur in developing countries, and approximately half of these deaths can be attributed to malnutrition and poor water sanitation. Local government is the key delivery agent for water sanitation and waste management and therefore it is essential that local governments have the fiscal support and administrative skills required to manage effective water cleansing systems and respond to contaminations effectively.

GPS projects in Sierra Leone

The Good Practice Scheme funded three local authority pilot projects with local councils on waste management one project with the Local Councils Association of Sierra Leone, in Sierra Leone that broadly aimed to:

  • Develop financially sustainable, safe, solid waste management strategies for participating districts.
  • Sensitise residents in the council’s wards to more environmentally sustainable methods of disposing of waste.

The GPS programme used practitioner to practitioner learning to build the capacity of participating local authorities to:

  • Design, plan and implement Waste management strategies that are responsive to the needs of the local community and environmentally sustainable.
  • Build strong relationships with local stakeholders, partners councils, marginalised groups, civil society and other spheres of government Develop management and governance structures to ensure their approach to waste is financially sustainable, value for money, and appropriate to the needs of their service users.

Project activities and achievements
Freetown and Hull: A template waste strategy was produced by officers following the first visit and this was developed and expanded as a result of the reciprocal visit by officers from Freetown. The strategy is under review in response to a new central government policy and strategy on waste management but the template is being implemented by Freetown and has been shared with other local councils in Sierra Leone, including Bo and Makeni, where it has been fully implemented. Training for procurement staff has been delivered in the areas of procurement, contract management, and performance monitoring and asset management and this has been supported by relevant documentation, together the impact has been a review and measureable shift in procurement practices at Freetown.

Western Area Regional District Council (WARDC) and HastingsThe original methodology for WARDC was focussed on communicating messages about responsible waste disposal but following the first visit to Sierra Leone it was evident that a more practical approach was also needed. Ideas developed by the partnership and community groups involved recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion on a local basis and received widespread support from WARDC and community leaders.  An Interim Sustainable Waste Management Strategy has since been developed, along with a Phase One Implementation Plan which focuses on the practical development of demonstration units for composting, anaerobic digestion and recycling. The communication and marketing proposals have also been refocused to include education and communication through schools in Hastings, Sierra Leone and work with twinned schools in Hastings UK.


Bo, Makeni and WarwickshireThe project has dramatically changed waste management in Bo and Makeni, unsafe, unreliable, and environmentally sustainable waste collection and disposal, has been replaced with safer, more convenient disposal, better sorted waste, and regular collection. The project has made a visible impact in the city and this has translated to an increased willingness among property tax payers to pay more for improved services in the future.  The council is also making provision in its own budget to purchase another skip lorry to be able to roll out the system fully in 2012. Fly tipped waste on the principal streets has been reduced and training given in landfill techniques has led to a reduction in burning of waste at those sites, this coupled with improvements to culverts by the JCB, which means less stagnant water in rainy season, which should result in fewer breeding sites for mosquitoes and other disease vectors. The midterm evaluation conducted by Mercy Hospital Research Laboratory revealed that the interviewed health personnel cited reduced disease incidence and attributed it in part to improved waste management practice.  The US sponsored disease incidence survey in Bo using state of art GIS technology in collaboration with Mercy Hospital Research Laboratory has provided the first up to date maps in more than ten years and allowing the council to customise fields and print bespoke maps for the land use and waste management.

National overview
The impact of the projects at the national level has been fairly significant for a number of reasons. There has been high level engagement from senior Ministry of Local Government staff and politicians, the Local Councils Association of Sierra Leone (LoCASL), other relevant government ministry officials such as health and sanitation and other public sector bodies and donors. This has been achieved through the projects individually via their partnerships but also through the dissemination process which also engaged all local councils in Sierra Leone. The impact of the projects has been that LoCASL has determined waste management as their first lobbying priority, the Ministry of Local Government has welcomed the recommendations from the projects and the dissemination workshop, and local councils have all benefitted from the learning out of the projects and are actively sharing documentation produced by the projects. The discussions held at the workshop produced key recommendations that the councils compiled together that set a clear direction for needs of councils in Sierra Leone in waste management and how they want to move forward collectively in building their capacity, sharing their services, and communicating messages to the general public.

View CLGF country profile of local government system in Sierra Leone


Useful links

BBC Sierra Leone Profile

UNDP in Sierra Leone


Standard Times Press

Stanford Sierra Leone News

FCO: Latest Sierra Leone Travel Advice

Sierra Leone High Commission UK

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