Sacred Groves, Spirituality and Sustainable Development in Northern Ghana
Since creation, mankind has strived to maintain a positive relationship with nature by preserving and making certain specific trees, water bodies, highlands and other places sacred. The practice of keeping sacred groves is one of the ways which promotes this human, ecological and spiritual connection. These groves, considered to be one of the oldest forms of habitats protection is believed to have the capability of providing the basis for understanding the nature of ecosystems which existed in a given area before the activities of human beings. These groves have dotted the map of Ghana and are in no small way contributing to preserving biodiversity and meeting the spiritual needs of the people. However, it is realised that increased population densities and the pressure on land with poverty have had major impacts on some of these groves. Most common is the degradation of the vegetation cover and the shift in land use of these significant sacred sites for farming and settlement purposes which gravely affect their nature in the northern part of the country. This paper provides an insight into the current structure, content and functions of these groves by way of assessing their role in promoting spirituality and sustainable development in Northern Ghana. A descriptive study based on primary sources, mainly interviews and secondary sources, reports, textbooks and articles, is used to generate data for the analysis. This paper revealed that in examining the nature of sacred groves, information should not be limited to only plants and animals but also water bodies. The paper also revealed that though sacred groves are of importance to Ghanaians, the government is doing little to legally protect these areas. The paper further argued that modern development projects usually located near groves is not a kind of punishment (as such areas are believed to be evil) but rather for protection. Therefore, it is concluded that these groves, founded on local practices need to be protected legally and also recognized by governments, researchers and all those involved in the environment debate.
Keywords: Sacred Grove, Spirituality, Sustainable Development, Taboos, Biodiversity