In the savannahs of the upper West region of Ghana, sacred groves stand out as green clusters of indigenous trees and shrubs. These groves are known to be vital to the survival of the region’s biodiversity. They are important to the community as they contain medicinal plants and conserve soils and water supplies. However, the community’s main motivation for saving the groves is that they are home to their ancestral spirits, and therefore play a key role in the community’s spiritual life. But scattered under the soils of these sacred sites, lies an attractive assembly of gold.
The Tingandem are the local spiritual leaders from the Tanchara community. They are the keepers of the sacred groves and support the Chief and his female counterpart, the Pognaa or the Queen as they resolve local conflicts, and gather the community in case of external threats.
"We punish anyone who cuts trees in our sacred groves. Since I became a Tingandem, the groves have not diminished; they have grown thicker than in the past. They are used to protect the gods who protect all of us".
- Sawbere Dakora Yirguru, Tingandem
The community and the Tindansup envision a future in which their sacred groves are well protected and conserved in such a way that they increasingly make significant contribution to the well-being of the community and the environment. All communities in the region should be legally supported, using Biocultural Community Protocols as a means of assisting other local inhabitants in claiming their rights and to take action for protection and conservation of their sacred groves in an integrated manner.
The Centre for Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Organisational Development CIKOD is a Ghanaian NGO. CIKOD is also the coordinator of the COMPAS Africa programme, part of the international COMPAs network for endogenous development and biocultural diversity. CIKOD empowers local community members to build on their traditional cultural knowledge and help develop organizational capacity needed to achieve community well-being. CIKOD has become a pioneer in the development of Bio-Cultural Community Protocols in Africa.
Through increased organization, the communities were able to drive away the illegal miners and protect their land, drinking water and sacred groves in a legal manner. To strengthen the capacity of local people to respond to issues of importance, it has developed and employed a series of tools known as Community Organisational Development tools:
- Community Institutions and Resources Mapping
- Community Visioning and Action planning
- Community Organisational Self-Assessment
With aid of CIKOD and COMPAS Africa, the Tingandem, came together and formulated a statement. It was the first time in history that a united group of Tingandem took such action. CIKOD is providing on-going support to the community and is seeking international support and advise on how to support the community and the Tingandem dealing with the mining sector and practicing conservation.
The Bio-cultural Community Protocol (BCP) links international, national, regional and customary rights related to traditional knowledge and biological diversity. It serves as a bridge between laws and practice, a community agreement which ensures the rights of local communities in relation to access and benefit sharing of biological diversity and their traditional knowledge are respected.
The mining company Azumay Resources Limited, granted permission by the Ghanaian government to mine for gold in the region. A group of armed illegal miners were mining in the past. The consequences of their mining activities jeopardise the community’s sacred groves.
The voice of the Tingandem, representing the Tanchara community was heard. The Tanchara community members have been able to bring their case to the regional and national governments, and are currently developing a protocol which calls on all stakeholders to save the community’s sacred groves from impacts of gold mining. Destruction of the house of the ancestors was stopped for now.
- A story of the Tindansup of Tancharra at CIKOD TV: Watch Video
- Centre for Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Organisational Development CIKOD: Visit Website
- CIKOD at Work, Conserving and Protecting the Sacred Caves of Forikrom Community: View PDF
- Ghanaian community protects sacred groves from mining, Endogenous Development Magazine, 7: View Article
- "Sacred groves versus gold mines: biocultural community protocols in Ghana" View PDF