Sierra Leone

Source: FAO Country Profiles and CIA The World Fact Book, 2006

Sierra Leone: Facts
Capital Freetown
Land area 71,740 sq km
Population 6,005,250 (July 2006 est.)
Population growth rate 2.3% (2006 est.)
Forested area Approx. 2.75 million hectares (c.38% of the land area)
Land use Arable land: 7.95%

Permanent crops: 1.05%

Other: 91% (2005)

Natural resources Diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore, gold, chromite

The Republic of Sierra Leone lies between latitudes 7° and 10’ N and longitudes 10° and 14° W on the west coast of Africa, covering an area of 71 740 km2.

It is bounded on the north and east by Guinea, on the southeast by Liberia and on the southwest and west by the Atlantic Ocean. The country is divided into three provinces (Southern, Eastern, and Northern) and the Western Area, the peninsula on which the capital, Freetown, is situated.

Sierra Leone can be divided into four main physiographic zones. The Gabro massif, in the Western Area, rises to 1 000 m altitude. The three other main regions, running roughly parallel to the coast from north-west to south-east, are:

Sierra Leone Forest map
Global Forest Cover, FRA 2000
  • A coastal belt of mangrove swamp, beaches and lowlands;
  • Tracts of undulating country to the east with a maximum width of 100 km; and
  • More inland, an upland plateau of up to 600 m altitude with mountain ranges culminating at 1 950 m in the Loma Mountains.

The climate is tropical, showing distinct dry and rainy seasons. The rainy season extends from May to November, with precipitation ranging from 2 000 mm in the north to more than 5 000 mm along the coast. The temperature varies between 22° C at night and 35° C during the day. Due to the high rainfall, the soils of Sierra Leone are subject to erosion, especially on slopes where the vegetation has been burned. Hilltops all over the country, which lost their arable topsoil after shifting cultivation, are now covered solely by grass or sparse bushes.

Environmental current issues

  • Rapid population growth pressuring the environment through overharvesting of timber and slash-and-burn agriculture resulting in deforestation and soil exhaustion;
  • Depletion of natural resources like uncontrolled diamond mining during the civil war and current alluvial diamond mining;
  • Overfishing and uncontrolled bush meat hunting.

Endangered wild life species in Sierra Leone: Diana monkey, red colobus, chimpanzee, green turtle, African wild dog, pygmy hippopotamus.