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Tombo, Sierra Leone

Who we are

Tombo is a bustling fishing town (we are fishing 24 hours a day). We are relatively large and cosmopolitan.  Come here to wander our markets or to watch us build boats and trade fish (down at the wharf – ask anyone in town and you can be directed to the wharf). We do small-scale farming as well – so not only can you come to Tombo to buy fish, but you can come for fresh vegetables grown in the hills above town.

We’re not only about food! Many of us are business-people.  We can fix your motorbike, fix your car, sew you a shirt, or get you a taxi to Freetown or down the coast.

We are predominantly Muslim (with 17 mosques) and are mainly Temne, Sherbro and Limba.

As is the case throughout the Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve, while in the past we were mostly farmers and fishers, many of us now support ourselves through coal burning, wood-cutting and stone mining.


Our community was founded by the Sherbro people before the colonial era. Some of us believe that the name for our community originates from a Sherbro word, “thomboc,” meaning “begging plassas” (plassas means green leafy vegetables).  Others of us believe that the word comes from Tom Bome, a gentleman who lived here during the colonial era. During the late 1700s and 1800s the settlement was controlled by the infamous slave trading family, the Caulkers (see Banana Islands). The first settlement was on top of the hills during the slave era and the second, called Moyiba, is where our present day cemetery is. The third wave of settlement was down by the water, where most of us live now.

While we began as mostly Sherbro people, we are now predominantly Temne. Every wave of people brought something new to our community. Ghanaian fishermen immigrated here and introduced ring net fishing to us and colonial people established churches here. Some liberated slaves settled here in the 1830s. And, though Christianity was the dominant religion here during the colonial era, Pa Alhajo Towa Smith, a headman, embraced Islam and encouraged many people in our community to practice Islam. The introduction of Islam brought more people to Tombo. 

Our heroes: Mr. Michael K Benga brought much infrastructure development to our community such as schools and the hospital. Pa Jacob King is a local hero to many of us. He was an influential person who divided our land equitably.

Current Attractions

Come here to see how we do our fish processing and while you’re at, ask to see our fish pond and our fishing boats.  We also sell wood for fishing boats – in fact, for anything fishing–related, come to Tombo, We even have a new fish processing plant set up by the world bank. It’s not operational yet, but we can take you for a tour and would love to talk to you about our plans for it in the future.

You can also come to watch a film in our cinema and play or watch a football (soccer) match. We can also take you on a forest walk where you can take photographs. We can show you the colonial fish pond and the slave hold near to it as well as the old Poro bush (its use was discouraged by Pa Alhaji Towa Smith in order to encourage more people to move to Tombo), the Gbondor water well, the extended jetty, the dam site and the school.

We are proud of our radio station and, speaking of culture, we have the Thomboke cultural group which stages plays for cultural festivals.

Potential Attractions

We don’t have a guest house right now and would love to have a place to lodge visitors to our town. We’d also like to have more fish ponds and are interested in developing a trail to the peak of the hill so that tourists can see the vista of the town and the sea from a beautiful vantage point. Some of us are also interested in building forest bungalows for guests in the mountains. And, like all other communities in the Western Area, we would like to establish more cultural groups to keep our diverse cultures alive.

Community Needs

We would like to see fishing improve.
We would like to see Tombo as a developed community with electricity.
We’d like to improve the town-planning.
We’d like to improve our water quality and access.
There are a number of indigenous activities we used to engage in that we miss and would like to re-establish.
We want to make sure we are empowered and able to protect our wild fish and animals as well as forest.
We would like to organise our youth cultural groups.
We would like our compounds to be cleaner.
We would like to replant trees in some areas where they have been deforested.
Land grabbing is a problem in our region so we are hopeful that we may be supported by the government and other powerful parties to protect our community lands.
We would really like to improve our children’s education.
We would really like to protect and improve our hospital.
We need doctors.
We wish that the council worked with community (so if you plan on helping, make sure that we feel that the council and the community are working in partnership).
We would like to revive our farming activities.
We would like to see less of our girls dropping out of school.
We would like to build a training centre for our youth.
We would like to have internal roads.
We would like to have public toilets.

We would like to see women’s cultural activities revive.

Contact us

The following people are currently leading us (2011): Headman Alie Japan Bangura (076 644 439); Chairlady Marie Boi Kamara (088 320 302); Councilor: Samuel Billie Kanu; Secretary: Mr Igbamba Turay (076 411 250); Youth Leader: Abdul Raman B Kamara (078 541 121).

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