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Key findings
  • Most Sierra Leoneans say droughts (65%) and floods (75%) have become less severe, rather than more severe, in their region over the past 10 years.
  • About half (49%) of Sierra Leoneans say they have heard of climate change, an 8- percentage-point increase since 2018. Among those who are aware of climate change: o Two-thirds (67%) say it is making life in Sierra Leone worse. o Overwhelming majorities believe that ordinary citizens can help curb climate change (85%) and that their government needs to take immediate climate action, even at considerable economic cost (81%). o Most assign primary responsibility for limiting climate change to the government (59%) or to ordinary citizens (30%). o Large majorities say “a lot more” action to fight climate change is needed from the government (84%), business and industry (82%), ordinary citizens (68%), and developed countries (66%).
  • About half (48%) of respondents say the government is doing a good job of addressing climate change.

Situated along West Africa’s low-lying coastline, Sierra Leone boasts dense biodiversity with rich marine life and relies heavily on its agriculture and livestock sectors (Sesay & Kallon, 2022; World Food Programme, 2022; Brima, 2021). Despite being only a marginal producer of greenhouse gases, Sierra Leone ranks 166th out of 185 countries on the ND-GAIN (2021) Index, indicating very high vulnerability to climate change and low readiness to confront the accelerating threat (African Development Bank, 2022; Karim & Bah, 2022; Africa Renewal, 2022). Extreme heat and rising sea levels, recurrent storms, floods, droughts, coastal erosion, mudslides, and other climate disruptions threaten the country’s food security, aquatic life, biodiversity, and sustained livelihoods (African Development Bank, 2022; Climate Parliament, 2022; Mukpo, 2022; Pickson & Boateng, 2021; World Vision, 2021; Wadsworth, Jalloh, & Lebbie, 2019). 

In partnership with international organisations, the Sierra Leonean government has adopted strategies to increase risk awareness and bolster institutional capacities for climate action outlined in the National Adaptation Plan, including restoration of its forest and tree cover (African Development Bank, 2022; World Food Programme, 2022; UNDP Climate, 2022). 

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire to explore Sierra Leoneans’ experiences and perceptions of climate change and its effects. 

Survey findings show that while popular awareness of climate change is increasing, it is still limited to about half of Sierra Leoneans. Most of those who have heard of climate change say it is worsening their quality of life. Overwhelming majorities say that greater efforts are needed from the government, business and industry, developed countries, and ordinary citizens to protect the country from the climate crisis.  

Margaret Eduonoo

Margaret Eduonoo is a PhD student and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Political Science, University of Florida.