Sacred groves are important for biodiversity conservation but this is not the only important function of the Groves in Ghana’s Upper West region. The groves provide medicinal plants and also house the communities’ ancestral spirits which are essential to the communities’ spiritual well-being. The groves protect the spirits who subsequently protect and guide the people in everyday life. Their caretakers are the communities’ spiritual leaders, known as the Tingandem, who gather the community in times of external threats and advise the king and the Queeen (Pogna) about land conflict within the community.
There is a clear biological and cultural value to the groves. However, the groves are increasingly endangered because underneath them lays gold. The threat of illegal mining and that of the government leasing land to mining companies is very real. In many places sacred groves have already been destroyed.
It is the wish of the community that the groves will continue to exist and to be protected under biocultural community protocols (BCPs). BCPs are meant to enable local communities to claim rights to land and resources which consequently guarantees the well-being of the communities.
The Ghanian NGO CIKOD assists indigenous communities’ to mobilize their traditional knowledge and culture with ‘community organizational development tools’ which helps all the communities in the region to respond to threats. The tools help communities to get organised and put the Tingandem in the driving seat in a joint action against the invasion of mining companies in the region.
For more information on the case and a list of the community organizational development tools see the case on the website and watch this filmclip of a Tindaana explaining the value of the groves.
By: Rianne Doller