Traditional Representations of the Natural Environment and Biodiversity Conservation: Sacred Groves in Ghana
Paul Sarfo-Mensah, William Oduro, Ernestina Antoh Fredua, Stephen Amisah
Sacred Grove, Cultural Artefact, Communal Resource, Degradation, Sustainability and Biodiversity
Economy and Society
Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano
Local cosmologies and traditional perceptions of the natural environment, especially forests, have been a major influence in the management of the natural resources and biodiversity amongst rural communities in the transitional zone of Ghana. Sacred groves, which are typical outputs of traditional conservation practices, derive from indigenous religious beliefs and perceptions of forest. Sacred groves are believed to be the abode of local gods, ancestral spirits and other super natural beings. These beliefs and perceptions have in the past strongly supported the conservation of biodiversity. However, changes in local cosmologies threaten the protection of rare species, habitats and ecological processes. Data from the study confirm evidence from several studies in Ghana and elsewhere in West Africa that the tremendous ecological, social, institutional, religious and economic changes in communities that have protected sacred groves threaten the survival of these cultural artefacts. The paper demonstrates that in contemporary natural resources management, the sacred grove model may still be used as a means of restoring and protecting landscapes in indigenous communities. Even in communities where population explosion and economic pressures have reached thresholds that undermine the natural landscape, the model may still be useful to keep pockets of forests within the landscape.