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The Role of Indigenous way of Natural Resource

Conservation and Its challenges in Africa

Africa is the second largest continent in the World with a total land
area of more that million hectares
The continent is bountiful in
with unique endemic species including plants and animals,
and traditional beliefs which are unique feature of
the continent (Kironde, 2008).
However, there are some problems that are associated to Africa
continent particularly in natural resource utilization such as

main drivers for loss of

biological diversity
The very fast rate of and of animals has brought
significant decline in biodiversity to the extent that some species
are on the of extinction (WWF, 2013)
Above all, indigenous communities have unique LK in NRs
management and conservation
The current increasing rate of natural resources loss are major
issues to both human and animal survival in many parties of the
The loss of each species comes with the loss of potential economic
benefits, as well as loss of ecosystem
and ecosystem management in many parts of
the world. However, indigenous Africa communities often have
elaborated resource management and conservation
(Kadiriserge, 2015)
Globally, indigenous people occupy only of the worlds
population, but they manage 11% of the total forestlands
Indigenous people managed the land on which they lived and the
natural resources they surrounded for millennia
There are existed locally well-informed IK and constructive traditional beliefs
that have positive repercussion on the conservation of available NRs via
and for their (IUCN, 2010)
of African indigenous people
various traditional religions, beliefs in a supreme creator,
belief in spirits, , use of ,
and traditional medicine knowledge (UNESCO, 2010)
Indigenous knowledge is supposed to be one among the
most valuable primitive practices of biodiversity
conservation and management in Africa
Most of all, traditional belief system is integral part of (IK) playing
remarkable roles in natural resource conservation in the many
developing countries
Traditional belief systems have a close and intimate link with the

Most of traditional beliefs link illustrated graphically by the

presence of
Certain plant and animal species are revered; in some cases these
may not be touched, destroyed or eaten as taboos and felling them
forbidden considered as and detached from their
Hence, these traditional belief systems of indigenous community in
Africa play great roles in conservation and management of natural
resources and enable forests to survive long (Souter, 2003)
It has been shown that traditional systems of
African culture are the best guarantee in the
protection of ecosystem and biodiversity
This experience shows that sacred places can
become real in the African
For this reason, many Africans are conscious of
the importance of safeguarding and re-valuing the
Africa indigenous people knows well about their
Result and Discussion
Indigenous Knowledge Practices and Natural Resource Conservation
Indigenous knowledge and Biodiversity are complementary
phenomena that essential to human development (Kafi-Tsekop, 1993).
Various African indigenous people have developed valuable
cultural attributes in the form of , myths and
that serve to conserve and manage the natural
IK are the complex arrays of knowledge, know-how,
that guide human societies in their innumerable interactions with
the natural : it includes
agricultural and animal husbandry; hunting and gathering, fishing;
struggles against disease and injury and strategies for coping with
changing environments (Warren, 1991)
IK is enabling the local communities to utilize the natural resource
in sustainable manner as well as to the food insecurity,
poverty, drought and degradation (UNESCO, 2000).
The are also reflected in a variety of practices regarding
management of trees, forests and water
is practices that is unique to a given society, .
Collection and management of wood and non-wood forest product
Agricultural practices, beliefs, restraint use of forests, water and
traditional medicine K
Traditional practices on protection, production and regeneration of
forests and water harvesting and wild food K
Cultivation of useful trees in cultural landscapes and agroforestry
Creation and maintenance of traditional water harvesting systems
Soil conservation and plantation of the tree groves ( )
Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Medicine
Currently, over of the worlds population depends on indigenous
healthcare based on medicinal plants
In Africa, it is over percent of the population use traditional medicine
Kenya ministry of Health budget for medicines in provided for only 30% of
the population 70% (21 million) of the population who could not access the
conventional drugs (World Bank, 2002).
For example, in Ghana, Ebony trees used for different disease such as diarrhea,
toothache, activating mothers to purify their breast milk,
Yaa, tree used for different cure, the bark of this tree is used to bath women
immediately after delivery to prevent infections, in Zimbabwe Mushozhowa
and Chizhuzhu commonly used traditional medicinal herbs (Aniah, 2014).
has a disease vector control property from Ethiopia which have been
proven as effective and safe, controlling schistosomiasis, a tropical disease
transmitted by freshwater snails (Eyong, 2004)
Hagenia abyssinica and Glinus lotoides for the treatment of tapeworm
commonly used in Africa (Russo, 200).
Country and Reference Number of Species

600 (just over 10% of s vascular flora)

Russo 2000 (Ethiopia)

2,000 forest plants

Russo 2001 (Ghana)


Guinea 2002 ( Guinea)


Mulenkei 1998 (Nigeria)

Nearly all native plants have some use

Rwanda 1998 (Rwanda)

Over 1,000 of s c.11,000 species of flora

Pergola 2003: Tanzania

Tsumkwe District in Namibias Otjozondjupa region More than 80

Russo 2001

Zimbabwe , UNEP, 2003 500 to 5000

Traditional knowledge of plant genetic resources for food and
the indigenous peoples of Africa retain a wealth of information regarding local
plants as food and medicinal
Many traditional peoples collect to supplement as , this is
often necessary during the seasonal food shortages that are a part of rural life
in many parts of Africa (UNESCO, 2003
For example, the pastoral Fulani (Nigeria) collect various types of edible plant
species during the dry and rainy seasons, also hundreds of edible
plant species are consumed as to staple foods and during seasonal food
They also use numerous plants as sources of drinking water, notably the tubers
Raphionacme burkei and Coccinea rehmanni (in )
In western Kenya, the Bukusu tribe has a diet that includes over a hundred
different fruits and vegetables drawn from at least 70 genera from forests
have aso documented the utilization of edible wild fruit species,
species used for their leaves and species used for their roots ( )
rural people of also endowed with a deep knowledge
concerning the use of wild plants, Wild-food consumption is still
very common in rural areas of Ethiopia, particularly with children
common wild plant fruits consumed by children are, for example,
fruits from Ficus spp, Carissa edulis and Rosa abyssinica (Guinand,
Konso people, for example, still have and use a well-developed
knowledge concerning which wild-food plants Amorphophallus
gallaensis and Arisaema species are considered typical famine-
food plants in Konso (Abebe and Ayehu, 1993)
2. Traditional belief System and Natural Resource Conservation
in Africa
Many African people and communities have spiritual, religious and
cultural associations with including
forests ( )
Certain plant and animal species are ; in some cases these
may not be touched, destroyed or eaten via taboos
The vast majority traditional belief systems in Africa have a close
and intimate link with the natural world
It is illustrated most graphically by the presence of sacred natural
site such as , groves, totem animals and
Natural sacred sites and its potential for Biodiversity
) are traditional protected area for spiritual,
traditional beliefs and ritual purposes which venerated from generation
to generation ( ) (IUCN, 2010)
could, in the present language of conservation, be called

SNS are often rich in species, being sometimes more diverse than even
or forest reserves (Ylhaisi, 2006)
frequently protected sacred sites more carefully than official
protected areas (national parks that scientifically conserved)
, SNS includes sacred groves, springs, sites of worship, rituals
and offerings, burial sites, and locations associated with spirits or deities
(IUCN, 2010)
Bongo people in North east Ghana hold sacred for traditional beliefs
purposes such as ponds, trees, rocks, rivers, These places are revered as
holly no one can encroach and destroy them ( ) (Githitho, 2003).
Sacred trees
it is implies that those trees in some way holly, venerated and connected
with belief systems, or set aside for a IUCN, 2010)
For example, in Ethiopia Konso people known for their ritual
tree species has a high significance values in
Konsos for rituals as well as belief system, this tree species
regarded as sacred because the Waka and generation poles are
prepared from this tree species (UNESCO, 2015).
In Zanzibar, . are regarded as sacred
trees in the groves and are believed to be the home of deities or
spirits no one can destroy them as well as wildlife in side of grove
(Kassim, 2004
Human beings, observing the growth and death of trees, and the
annual death and revival of their foliage, have often seen them as
powerful symbols of growth, death and rebirth
, in West Africa tree highly associated
with fertility and birth so the traditional community regarded
them as sacred
In many African cultures trees feature in myths and lore
For instance, in parts of West Africa trees provide the venue for
many cultural events (UNFF, 2008).
It is used as a locations where elders sit under big trees and talk
argue and discuss issues until they agree
also associated with Oubangui
tribe of Central Africa, plant a tree for every new born child
a fast growing tree species is planted. The
child development is linked to the
the tree growth declines there is fear for the health of the child
and a healer is called upon
the child is sick she is brought to the tree for ritual
the tree starts to fruit, the time would have come for the
child to marry (Rukeh et al, 2013).
Likewise, in Ethiopia Songo trees regarded as sacred or
holly tree species such as Garibe, Mokenissa, Wodessa, Badessa,
Birbrissa, udessa and Odeee venerated and
No axe may be laid to any , no branch broken, no firewood
gathered even deadwoods
Sacred groves
Sacred groves are areas of relatively undisturbed forest with often
large and very old trees and pieces of land set aside for spiritual
They are often sites of ancestral burial where people can
communicate with their ancestors (respecting ancestors sprits)
Trees within these groves are considered as sacred, housing spirits
and providing links to ancestors
Sacred Songo site and Tree Groves
Sacred forests
is those forests venerated for traditional practices
The local communities have respected and protected them, via
for traditional beliefs (believed these forests protect the
spirits of ancestors) (Sponsel, 2008).
Sacred forests are very important reservoirs of biological diversity,
preserving unique floral and faunal species
Peoples spiritual relationship to forests takes many different forms
for example the see the forest as a personal god,
fruitful and kind, and enact their relationship with it and with the
spirits of the forest in ritual and (CBD, 2003).
Gathering, hunting, woodcutting and farming are strictly
prohibited in are widely revered and
In sacred forests, protected as holy burial
places, have a distinct stand structure and species composition,
and are considered as of the original forests in region
Totemism (Taboos)
It is representation of animals or plants that reserved for
traditional beliefs that not destroyed, eaten, damaged
In the totem system, a relationship exists between the group and
certain animals or plants, which are regarded as totems, and
members of the group do not
(Aniah et al, 2014).
For example, in Ghana as follows: almost every traditional ruler,
Chief, or King, members of a clan or tribe and even the entire
nation has a totem which is symbols of the identitythe
(Aniah et al, 2014).
In the Agona, the is the main totem because it symbolizes
diplomacy, an attribute that is highly regarded among the Agona
In the Abura Traditional Area, the is the main totem
The Abura people were great warriors and they equate their
strength to the elephants
The Anombao Traditional Area in western Africa has the as
the totem because they believe the parrot introduced their ancestors to
the palm nut as an
Dorimon people in Ghana, is the only totem animal, is a symbol
of unity, bravery, and courage, and protected their ancestors
Leopards also are regarded as the symbol of Mgbe, the deity of the
Ejagham tribe in
are endangered but can still be found in this area
Mammals (leopard, elephant, lion, monkey, and buffalo) and birds
(falcon, raven, and parrot). Turtles, crocodiles, snakes (python),
scorpions, crabs and fishes are also considered as totems in some of the
communities in Africa (Quaye, 2006)
Likewise, In Benin, are totem or sacred many species of pythons
are worshipped. Hippopotamus amphibious also a sacred,
animal, believed to provide villagers with
Totem (sacred) animals Known uses

Colobus vellerosus It is believed that the Black-and-white colobus can forewarn villagers of
upcoming unfortunate events, such as drought, disease or death, and are
therefore not hunted. (primate, threatened by habitat loss)

Osteolaemus tetraspis and Crocodylus cataphractus The West African dwarf crocodile and the African sharp-nosed crocodile are
sacred animals within traditional beliefs. They are worshiped by villagers
and never hunted. The crocodiles presence in wetlands and streams imposes
a temporary ban on fishing
Python Many species of pythons are worshipped in southern of Benin

Hippopotamus amphibus Also a totem, worshipped animal, believed to provide villagers with
abundant fish catch.

Anyiribom birds in Nigeria Not killed regarded for traditional beliefs

gray parrot in Ghana totem because they believe the parrot introduced their ancestors to the palm
nut as an edible food

Leopards is venerated (western and central Africa) symbol of unity so, venerated
Challenges and threats to IK and TBS
Introduction of into rural parts of Africa has had a
tremendous negative impact on the role traditional beliefs and
local practices
and products
such as
has escalated pressures on remaining stands,
woodlots and (Kiringe, 2005)
and are undermining many local
practices as well as traditional beliefs that have survived for
hundreds of years (youth) (Veldman, 2004)
which is (Christianity and Islam) have
declared traditional beliefs as evil and satanic (Aniah et al, 2014)
of IK and beliefs (word of mouth )
, understanding and use of Africas indigenous
knowledge and traditional beliefs (modern science)
development in the continent, for example,
in Kenya, destruction of many Kaya sacred forests and groves
The Traditional Belief system and Biodiversity
In many cultures of the world, SNSs are important areas for

Traditional for the environment and to

sacred sites have often led to well-conserved areas with high
biological diversity
In the sacred forest, the use of resources is regulated by
The local people are not allowed to collect certain types of
products, or cut certain tree species from area
For example, , highly respected and Fishing
or harvesting any aquatic animals within the pond is as well
The is also venerated that nobody goes there to fish
alone and it is only allowed once in years
Over plant taxa have been recorded in the Kaya forests, of
which are new to science and some are new to Kenya
Traditional beliefs and myths have conserved many important
species, for example the in
The forbidding of fishing and protection of aquatic species from
sacred ponds
The forbidding from consumption of some species of animals also
encourages conservation for example
are also useful sources of that can
be used for rehabilitating degraded environments
can bring the repercussion on the
conservation and protection of the Biodiversity such as animals,
trees, forests and medicinal herbs
Conclusion and recommendation
Traditional belief systems as well as indigenous practices have
played a vital role in the conservation of natural resources such as
trees, forests, water and animal in Africa via taboos by illustration
of sacred forest, tree, pond and totem animals
Indigenous knowledge practices such as traditional medicine,
agricultural and wild food identification, soil conservation and
others are remarkable traditional K for livelihoods improvement
However, over the years, traditional belief systems and IK that
conserve the natural resources for long period have been eroded
or corroded by western cultural infiltration, population growth
and religious monotheism
Natural resource managers, different stakeholders and modern
politics are should work together with local communities to
encourage their indigenous practices
concerned stakeholders should work together to protect
traditional beliefs from diminishing and eroding factors
Indigenous people should motivated by giving incentive in the
form of developmental projects and involving them in local
decision making process ( ) and legal
traditional knowledge of Biodiversity conservation should be
documented and must be included in educational/or school
curriculum ( )
The development of in traditional protected area
such as sacred forest, groves must be controlled and planed to
reduce threats