Title: How do cultural belief systems of sacred groves contribute to environmental conservation, and what are their specific threats?

Author(s): Beatrice Dossah
University thesis
Year of publication:
Document URL: Link
Supervisors: Helga Ogmundardottir , Jon Geir Petursson


Increased pressures on land resources in urban areas threaten sacred groves that have survived for centuries as people turn to sacred grove's lands to meet demands for settlement and infrastructure development. This study sought to understand how cultural belief systems of sacred groves are linked to environmental conservation and to identify the drivers that endanger such places using the case study of the Gua Koo sacred grove in Pokuase, Ghana. Findings from the research can help diverse stakeholders understand cultural systems of sacred grove management and use that as a foundation for developing a long-term management plan for biodiversity conservation in Ghana. The research used qualitative methods, involving the administration of semi-structured interviews with 21 interviewees. The interviews demonstrated that in the past, traditional taboos were used to restrict access to the grove and regulate resources. These included forbidden days of entry, social rules that promoted good extractive methods of resources, and fines system for individuals breaking the rules. Presently, although the belief systems are eroding, people still fear shrine areas in the sacred grove and hence abstain from polluting such areas for fear of repercussions from the deities. Again, the land ownership system in Ghana was identified as a major threat to the effective management and land use planning of the Gua Koo sacred grove. One of the key recommendations is that actions for the proper coordination between the custodians of the sacred groves and the public authorities should be improved in terms of land use planning near the forest.

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