Nursing our ancient trees in Savannah Region for resilience

By Ana Elia Ramon Hidalgo and Rashid Abubakar Iddrisu Wari

Feature image: Local community members visit the tree nursery in March 2021 © CEHDA

Local and important trees have been disappearing for years from the Savannah Region of Ghana due to external market pressures, such as charcoal trading capital demands, deforestation and the introduction of foreign seeds. Communities in the region are seeing the palpable consequences of deforestation on local food security: waterways and small natural lakes are quickly drying up. According to local elders, seasonal rain patterns are changing. Traditional chieftaincies overwhelmingly agree on the need to care for forests and plants for the future of their communities.

In 2020, with the support of volunteers from the Sawla community and an alumni from the M.A. in Human Rights Practice from the University of Arizona, a tree nursery was set up on Cultural, Environmental, Human, Development Association (CEHDA) land to nurse endangered local tree species. When ready, the trees can be planted in schools, hospitals, traditional lands and local institutions. Currently, there are more than 20 species being cultivated and over 3000 seedlings growing in the nursery. This includes rosewood, dawa-dawa, shea, cashew, mahogany, cottonwood and baobab, among others.

Land of CEHDA to enclose © CEHDA

The tree nursery is mainly located within a small fenced plot, but as it continues to grow, we need a larger area. With support from GEN seed funding, we will complete the construction of a larger enclosure on the CEHDA land, allowing us to expand the nursery as a community demonstration garden forest. This allows for more flexibility and stability in our tree nursing activities without the disruption of roaming animals. The fencing will be covered with vegetation from the same seeds we are nursing. Thus, the fence will become part of our broader cultural environmental strategy. In addition, we are building a small shop by the roadside to showcase ancient seeds, tree-based products and other local products.

There are two overall aims of this project. One is that local communities in the region become more resilient and less dependent on external food sources and products. The other is to increase economic opportunities from non-timber forest products by enhancing local skills. With CEHDA’s support, along with our local partner World Institute of Africa Culture and Traditions (WIACT), communities are encouraged to nurse and plant local and culturally-valued trees that are in danger of disappearing from the region. Apart from their local spiritual values, these trees have, over centuries, provided shade, water, medicines, ingredients, fibers, and a resilient ecosystem. With this project we are revitalizing ancient socio-ecological wisdom through the experience of rural communities who still remember and care about the multiple and intricate values of local trees and plants.

This project, Nursing our ancient trees in Savannah Region for resilience, is being carried out by GEN member Ana Elia Ramon Hidalgo and is supported through GEN Project Packages.