Into the Jungle – Land use in the scrub (2)

Although the dryland rice covered huge areas, and occasionally we would see sorghum or maize in fields, more intensive cultivation would happen in the valley bottoms.  In these lowlands all kinds of crops, including rice, would be grown, in paddies, in carefully raised mounds of earth.  Irrigation systems would allow careful application of water from nearby rivers and lakes to the fields, neither depriving nor swamping the growing crops.  Some of these had been created in existing bas fond, but others seemed to have been grubbed up out of the gallery forest – depriving a much richer biodiversity of its rightful place.

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The national park has a much richer vegetation

Another activity was prevalent deep in these gallery forest close to rivers.  This part of west Africa is well renowned for its mineral resources.  One mountain on the border of Guinea and Liberia has up to 40% pure iron in its rocks but gold is also present in decent quantities.  Many artisanal miners dig up the silty basins of rivers looking for the finest dust fragments of the metal.  Locally it produces a mess of whitish fine dust that coats every leaf and soil crumb, and makes the streams milky for miles downstream.  But these hand dug pits are tiny compared to the destruction by logging, large scale mining and shifting agriculture.

As we passed back through Kortor, with all our friends of the morning waving us as we passed through, I realised just how richer the forest was close to the park.  You could feel the distinct coolness, the moisture both trapped in the air and on the ground, and the innumerable species of plants, and no doubt animals, that were thriving in this environment.  Who wouldn’t want that?

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