The Pokuase Sacred Grove, an ancient forest reserve is in grave danger.
The reserve is dying in spite of efforts being made to rejuvenate and preserve it.
The reserve known as (Gua Koo) at Pokuase in the Ga West Municipal Assembly of the Greater Accra Region, is succumbing to some human activities.
The people of Pokuase and the traditional elders consider the reserve a Sacred Grove.
The Gua koo, which goes a little bit beyond just being a forest because of its historical and religious significance to the lives of the Ga people and Ghana in general, is seriously being threatened by the activities of some individuals.
Despite the fact that ‘Friends of the Earth-Ghana’ in recent time has initiated a tree-planting and educational campaign about sacred groves that is rooted in the Gua koo grove in order to prevent encroachers from further destroying its flora and fauna, the forest which has been the source of spiritual, cultural, social and economic benefits to the inhabitants, these troublemakers have taken the law into their own hands to cut down the trees and use the area for their selfish business.
The situation has therefore compelled the Pokuase Traditional Authority to petition the Minister for Environment, Science and Technology to use her good offices to intervene to save the Gua koo Forest Reserve from the developers.
Investigations have proved that one Ibrahim Dodoo, who is also known as Nii Amoo Dodoo as well as Fritz Parker, has allegedly sold the Gua Koo Reserve to a developer.
Dated July 10, 2009, a letter sent to the Minister said, “A little over a week ago at the dawn of Tuesday, June 30, 2009, to be precise, we woke up to see a caterpillar and land guards grading (cutting down) the forest. And for two days workers from Koans Construction Company tore down part of the forest. Several attempts to stop them legally proved futile. Signs of degradation are showing all around the Gua koo and the need to protect and preserve this site for heritage of the world is ever more imperative.”
“We are therefore appealing to you for quick intervention to save the Sacred Grove from these developers because the youth and people of Pokuase have declared their intention to protect it in their own way,” the letter added.
The petition letter noted that due to serious depletion and encroachment by developers, the Traditional Authority had demarcated about 50 acres of the original space for conservation.
According to the letter, the forest also protects the source of the Sunkwa stream that provides drinking water for the inhabitants and water tankers serving the Ga West Municipality.
“Currently, a non-governmental organisation, Water Health International, supported by Safe Water Network of U.S.A. is providing clean portable drinking water sourced from the Sunkwa in the reserve. The forest is one of the main tourist sites of the Municipal Assembly and is also recognized as a Sacred Grove by the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology,” the letter emphasised.
Sacred groves were a feature of the mythological landscape and the cult practice of the most ancient levels and for that matter, the Gua koo is said to represent a symbol of unity of the Ga people and their past struggles for identity and statehood, and adds to the list of Ghana’s cultural heritage.
Sacred forest groves dot the otherwise increasingly degraded landscape of Ghana, providing oases of biodiversity and tradition. The pressures of poverty, cultural change, and migration are causing inhabitants to harvest resources from the groves at an unsustainable rate. Several promising partnerships between international organizations, the Ghanaian government, and local communities have demonstrated the ways that reverence for the groves may be translated into environmental preservation and sustainable livelihoods.
Logging, gathering of firewood, fires, hunting and cultivation in sacred groves were routinely banned, and in some groves, entry was restricted for women during their menstrual cycle. Some animals were generally considered sacred, while others were afforded protection only when they entered a grove. The custodians of the groves held ceremonies and rituals of ancestral worship in the forests. Permission to take certain botanical elements for medicine was sometimes granted.
By Innocent Appiah