CSD-8:
Sustainable Development Success Stories

Buoyem Sacred Grove Conservation Project

Location

Buoyem, Brong Ahafo Region, Ghana

Responsible Organization

Ghana Association for the Conservation of Nature (GACON), and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Description

Much of GACONís focus over the years has been on the protection of traditional bio-resource conservation areas generally referred to as sacred groves. These are small areas of forest, which have been set-aside as sacred sites and strictly protected by customary laws, beliefs and enforced by taboos. In Ghana, chiefs, communities or individuals for religious and cultural purposes have reserved these areas for purposes such as royal burial grounds, preservation of watercourses and sacred plants and as abodes for traditional deities. This has inadvertently assisted the protection of rivers and streams, rare species of plants and animals, fragile ecosystems, archaeological sites and the prime forest. However, in recent years the taboos have dissolved and consequently the groves have become vulnerable. The changes are largely attributed to changes in religion, mixing of cultural groups, increased demand for forest products, population growth demanding more agricultural land and infrastructural developments.

Buoyem Sacred Grove is 369,4 hectares of remnant dry semi-deciduous and savannah-transition zone forest located in the Techiman district of Brong Ahafo Region. The River Mprisi flows through part of the grove. Areas of degraded forest and farmland largely cover the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. The sacred groves found there, although degraded, have provided sanctuaries for much wildlife, now absent from the surrounding land. The grove contains a diverse fauna including a large colony of fruit bats where over 20,000 roost in a series of underground caves. Rodent and avifauna are high in numbers and typical of such transitional vegetation that offers varied habitats for both forest and grassland species. The grove dates back to the 14th century when it was established initially to protect the bats, which were food for the traditional authorities (stool). The grove still serves this purpose today and so the forest has been preserved though not in its original condition.

Ghana Association for the Conservation of Nature (GACON) assisted the rural community of Buoyem, Brong Ahafo Region, to conserve and manage the area of forest known as Buoyem sacred grove. Buoyem sacred grove is under threat from degradation due to fire, encroachment, hunting and collection of fuel wood. The grove has been threatened by regular annual bushfires, intensified during the drought that devastated the country in the early 1980s. This highlighted the need to protect the grove and its importance to the local communities. GACON assisted the community to conserve and effectively manage their grove through protection from bush fire, promoting alternative incomes, increasing public awareness on the importance of conserving sacred groves and reducing the need to collect fuel wood from the grove area.

Issues Addressed

Land use, Forests, Capacity building.

Results Achieved

GACON worked with the Buoyem community for several years, building up a strong relationship between the chief, elders and Sacred Grove Management Committee as well as the other members of the community. The sacred grove is the responsibility of the Buoyem chief who has shown great willingness and understanding to conserve the grove. Activities to date include:

  1. Conducted education programmes with local communities focussing on the concept of conservation and the importance of protecting sacred groves through the use of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) techniques.

  2. Botanical and faunal surveys

  3. GACON Forest Fire Prevention and Control Program, Community Consultation, and Forest Fire Prevention Control Program, Education Training and Firebreak Construction

  4. Organisation of a Workshop to assess community needs

  5. Development of a Tree nursery near the river, and identification of 4 local farmers to tend the nursery

  6. Sacred Grove Management Committee

  7. Sacred Grove Management Workshop

  8. Extension of the tree nursery

  9. Construction of a green firebreak around the grove

  10. Organisation of a Workshop on Wildlife Conservation, and training local hunters as guides/rangers

  11. Identification of 12 local tour guides

  12. Creation of circular paths through the grove

  13. Production of a leaflet for the use of visitors to the grove

  14. Training local volunteers to protect the Grove from bushfires, and Education program for the prevention of bushfires

  15. Training guards in the laws and by-laws of the grove

  16. Promotion of the use of fuel-efficient woodstoves (FEWS)

  17. Identification of rare and endangered species in the grove

  18. Compilation of a comprehensive management plan

Although Buoyem Sacred Grove Conservation Project is not yet complete, several stages are now finished and accomplishments have evolved over the 4-year period. GACON never really expected the mass commitment, motivation and support of the project by the chief and elders, the management committee, the tour guides and the community as a whole. Their involvement has ensured the success of the conservation of Buoyem Sacred Grove far into the future as they have a stake in its preservation. Empowering the community to preserve their forest through education and practical experience has certainly been one of the key factors in the projectís success but all in all, it is the people of Buoyem who have made it work.

Lessons Learned

The people of Buoyem have been extremely enthusiastic about the conservation project and the sacred grove management committee and tour guides have been completely supportive, putting in many hours of voluntary service. Despite GACONís involvement, the community had some misconceptions about the project. This meant that not all the people living in and around Buoyem were fully briefed about the project. GACON therefore made a concerted effort to advertise the main aims of the project throughout the whole community. With the help of the management committee, this problem seems to be vastly reduced. It is intended that after education and technical assistance have been accepted and understood, communities can continue to work independently towards protecting their natural environment as their ancestors have.

The local traditions are as important as the project itself. The right of the people to continue with their customs and traditional rites are paramount and hold priority over the actual conservation of the forest.

Contacts

Charles Boamah, Project/Programmes Manager
GACON, Private Mail Bag,
Kumasi, Ghana
Tel. (+233) 0 27 552752; Fax (+233) 0 51 22687
Email: gacon@fmsc.africaonline.com.gh