Sacred Seeds leader Rafael Ocampo explains the motivations and methods...
Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary and Cultural Village
The village of Tafi Atome has over 1000 residents and is located within the Hohoe District of the Volta Region of Ghana. Residents speak Ewe. The village is surrounded by a sacred grove of approximately 28 ha. The grove is a semi-deciduous forest and lies within the forest-savannah transitional zone. It is immediately surrounded by grassland and cultivated farmland. The grove fits into the IUCN protected area Category IV, a habitat and/or species management area. The area is protected by a 2006 Hohoe District bylaw for its main value as habitat for sacred mona monkeys (Cercopithecus mona mona). According to residents, approximately 200 years ago, the ancestors of the residents of the Tafi Atome area are said to have migrated from Assini in central Ghana to the Hohoe District. They brought with them an idol or fetish that was placed in the sacred forest in Tafi Atome, in order to keep it safe and cool. The forest was immediately considered sacred and therefore protected. A short time after their arrival in the area, the village residents began to notice monkeys that they believed they had seen in their original region of Assini, and therefore believed that the monkeys had followed them. The monkeys were henceforth considered ‘representatives of the gods’, and protected as sacred. Residents are very familiar with plant species within the forest that can be used for medicine. There is also a Fetish Priest who has special status in the community to conduct ceremonies associated with the forest.
Threatened species we are cultivating:
These are examples of plants have local significance and use.
- Nyamedua (God’s Plant)
- Pharock Ginseng (Akukor)
Groups regularly visit the sanctuary.
The community supports the sacred forest through community-based conservation. Several publications exist about the sanctuary, including the following:
Ormsby, A. 2012. Cultural and Conservation Values of Sacred Forests in Ghana. Chapter in Pungetti, G., G. Oviedo and D. Hooke (eds.) Sacred Species and Sites: Advances in Biocultural Conservation. Cambridge University Press.
Ormsby, A. and C. Edelman. 2010. Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, Ghana: Community-Based Ecotourism at a Sacred Site. Pgs. 233-243 in Verschuuren, B. and R. Wild (eds.) Sacred Natural Sites: Conserving Nature and Culture. London: Earthscan.
Residents are very familiar with plant species within the forest that can be used for medicine. There is also a Fetish Priest who has special status in the community to conduct ceremonies associated with the forest.
Medicinal Plant Use - Usually the bark, leaves and roots are boiled for drinking, sometimes they are squashed in cold or warm water for drinking, bathing or applied on affected areas.
For instance, the bark and roots of Mahogany are used to cure a hernia and also serves as blood tonic. The bark and leaves of the Mango tree are used to treat stomach ulcers and different kinds of fever.
Plant Collection - They are usually collected from the sanctuary and in residents’ farms, by chopping off the bark using a machete or axe and digging of roots using hoes.
Plant Regulation - There are bylaws that prohibit the cutting down of the tree; you only pick what you need (either the bark, leaves or roots only, and for roots, the trees must be mature).
The sacred nature of this forest is highly respected.