A sensitisation workshop on the African Commission Resolution 372 has been held to amongst others promote the recognition and protection of sacred sites on the African continent.
The three-day workshop, which ended in Tamale, was organised by the Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems (RAINS), a non-governmental organisation, in partnership with the African Biodiversity Network, and participants included stakeholders from various African countries including Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Benin.
Dr Abudulai Sulemana, Chairman of African Biodiversity Network, speaking during the workshop, emphasised that “The need to protect and preserve the sacred sites derives from something that we all know, which is there is no community or group in this world that does not have a story of origin.”
He said “The stories of origin often have spiritual undertones or roots. Therefore, the things that hold people together, the things that we draw our identity, the web of kinship that exists between us and one another derives from stories of origin but also those things that have spiritual, cultural and ecological importance. And that is why sacred sites in Africa are very important as the nerve centres of what hold our communities together.”
The African Commission Resolution 372 called on State Parties “To recognise sacred natural sites and territories, and their customary governance systems, as contributing to the protection of human and peoples’ rights.”
Dr Sulemana called on policy-makers “To recognise this but also build this into the way in which land policy is formulated; the way in which the relationships between the custodians of sacred sites and traditional rulers. Most communities; that relationship is very clear; there is a lot of respect; if you go to Upper East, and Upper West Regions, the Tindanba and chiefs work together to make sure that this relationship exists.”
He added that “However, when it comes to policy, legislation, we tend to play down on the role of sacred site custodians. Our recent experience of the global crisis suggests the need to rethink the way in which we look at our relationship with one another but also our relationship with the earth community because that imparts on food security, resilience to climate change and extent to which we can actually keep our environment secure; protect it from flooding.”
Mr Dennis Tabaro, Executive Director of African Institute for Culture and Ecology, who presented findings of a research on challenges of sacred natural sites in Africa, said “We need to build confidence for custodians to use their knowledge to address the loss of biodiversity and also for food and reducing the impact of climate change.”
He also expressed the need for governments “To have practical policies starting at ordinances at local levels, which allow and recognise the rights of indigenous communities and the custodians of these places to advocate for their protection for the betterment of our communities.”