- A sacred groove is a space of undisturbed land that has been protected by local people through the use of religious beliefs, taboos and other customary practices.
- In most cases, in West Africa, deities exist and are worshipped by their adherents in the sacred grooves.
- Those who follow these deities believe that they possess the powers to protect them at all times and deliver them out of danger.
- There are several sacred grooves in West Africa. For example, the Osun-Oshogbo Sacred Groove in Nigeria.
SIX FUNCTIONS OF SACRED GROOVES
Centre for biodiversity conservation
The sacred grooves are full of different life forms. The living creatures that live there are diverse, they include biotic and abiotic types. It is for the presence of this biological diversity that the term biodiversity was coined. In a sacred groove, there are several species making up the ecosystem. No matter how small the species is, it has a function to perform. The shear variety and numbers of species that can be found in the sacred grooves ensures that all life forms can exist in a sustainable way, feeding on available food in the groove. Sacred grooves therefore conserve biodiversity and therefore must not be removed to make way for industrialization.
Conservation of flora
The over-exploitation of the forests, especially in West Africa, has resulted in the loss of several hectares of flora. Those in the sacred grooves however have largely remained untouched because of the protection provided by the existence of taboos and the enforcement of other traditional values. The existence of sacred grooves therefore helps the conservation of the trees and plants.
Conservation of animals
Sacred grooves can serve as a refuge for animals, especially the endangered species. This is becoming increasingly so because the natural habitat of most animals are systematically being destroyed through indiscriminate felling of trees and causing destruction to the remaining forests. The sacred grooves happen to be some of the last natural forests still standing almost undisturbed. Their existence therefore can serve as a place animals can be conserved for posterity. The Tafi-Atome monkey sanctuary, in the Volta Region of Ghana is a clear example. It is reputed to be providing protection for four different species of monkeys.
Source of clean water
Cleverly, traditional people have created sacred grooves around the sources of springs and river headwaters. There is little opportunity to dump refuse in these grooves, mining of mineral resources are prohibited and even entry is controlled. The absence of or the limited human activity in the sacred grooves, ensures that the water that flows into the villages is clean.
Serves as a carbon sink
Human and industrial activities release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is harmful to the environment and contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer, causing climate change. The sacred grooves serve as a reservoir to absorb chemical compounds that contain carbon, through the process of sequestration. The existence of more sacred grooves therefore has a co-relationship to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is therefore a very good decision not to destroy sacred grooves in the name of modernity.
Promote the sustainable utilization of flora and fauna
The sustainable utilization of flora and fauna is a suggestion that the plants and animals in the sacred grooves can be literally harvested in such a way that it will not damage the ecosystem or pose a threat to the survival of the plants and animals. In the ancient times, farming and hunting were prohibited in the sacred grooves but today, the pressures of modernity and the desire to expand cities to accommodate more people is not making the enforcement of this practice entirely possible. However, if usage of the resources in the sacred grooves is controlled, it can promote the sustainable utilization of the plants and animals there.