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  1. 1. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012 An Investigation into the Effect of Religious Norms as a Conservation Measure: A Case Study from Ghana Steve Kquofi1* Peter Howley2 1. Department of General Art Studies, Faculty of Art, UPO Box 50, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana 2. Department of Rural Economy Development Programme Teagasc, Athenry, Galway, Ireland * E-mail of the corresponding author: / mailAbstractThis paper discusses the effect of social taboos stemming from religious principles on natural fromresource management. The analysis is based on an unstructured interviewing of indigenousresidents and local officials within three regions in Ghana. The analysis reveals how as a resultof a belief system that recognises the power and spirituality of nature, traditional communities recognisesoften engage in cultural practices that have significant beneficial impacts for the environment.More specifically, the results presented here illustrate how institutional norms such as cultural cultutaboos that prohibit development on certain landscapes, moral laws preventing the destruction ofcertain animal and plant species and ban on fishing and farming during certain seasons, althoughwith religious origins, have important ecological functions. Understanding more about how functions.individuals in African communities relate to the environment is important for a number ofreasons. For instance, due to lack of resources for more formal institutions such as legal rules andregulations, taboos based around social norms may in certain areas provide the only effectiveregulations. Moreover, a more in depth understanding of how individuals relate to the in-depthenvironment can be used to design more effective policies that cater to respondents with diversemotivational profiles. Unfortunately, the analysis revealed that increasing pressures for ldevelopment, coupled with increasing popularity of other religions, now mean that variousrestrictions and ways of life which helped protect the environment, while still important, no importalonger have the same hold on people.Keywords: cultural taboos, environmental spirituality, conservation, GhanaIntroductionAt a general level the general public can be characterised as nature friendly. That is, individualswhether they are from “traditional” societies or otherwise, largely acknowledge the intrinsicvalue of nature and its subsequent right to exist irrespective of its functions for mankind (Vos andMeekes, 1999; De Groot and van den Born, 2003). Despite these positive attitudes t towardsnature, human interference is increasingly having a negative impact on biodiversity (Kquofi,2011; Styers et al, 2010; McGranahan, 2010; Ode et al., 2009). Specifically in relation to Ghana,land degradation, coastal erosion, water pollution, deforestation and desertification now deforestationconstitute major environmental problems (Roosbroeck and Amlalo 2006). This has been theresult of an increasing focus on economic growth and development with the often unintendedconsequence of destruction of important ecosystems. ecosSocial taboos exist in most cultures and are good examples of informal institutions, where normsrather than laws determine behaviour (Colding and Folke, 2001). Especially in traditionalsocieties, taboos frequently guide human conduct towards the environment. Among the thetraditional communities in Ghana, for instance, taboos guided by religious norms often act to helpconserve biological diversity. Members of traditional communities strongly believe that spiritualbeings decide on what happens in the physical realm. These spiritual beings are, in turn, believedto be domiciled throughout the surrounding environment in everything from trees, rocks, animalsand rivers. 77
  2. 2. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012In the early 1900s, concern over rapid population growth in Ghana and other African countries Aled colonial administrators to introduce protected areas (nature preserves) based on westernknowledge and values (Ntiamoa Badu, 1995). In Ghana, it is evident that nature reserves and (Ntiamoa-Badu,national parks have scenic, cultural, and historic values that deserve to be protected aside their valuesvital roles in purifying the air and a host of other ecological services. For example, the KakumNational park, Aburi botanical gardens, Paga crocodile pond, Agumatsa waterfalls, KNUSTbotanic garden, etc. enhance the aesthetic appeal of the environment. It is interesting to note that ceunlike sacred groves that have survived because of strong traditional beliefs and the spiritual,religious and cultural attachments to the groves, these introduced protected areas are often aindiscriminately encroached upon. In the former, the major virtue of this strong culture culture-basedpractice is that it encourages community participation in natural resource conservation andpromotes linkages between man and nature.Exploring the relationship between socio cultural practices and environmental conservation – ationship socio-culturaldrawing largely on anthropology, Silka (2001) outlines the positive effect of created eco-rituals, ecoor rituals produced in a context of activist ecological spiritualities on the surrounding landscape. surTwo such examples of how activists use rituals effectively to motivate environmentalconsciousness are: the “ecology monks” of Thailand with their famous strategy of tree tree-ordination;and the “earthkeeping churches” of Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. Tree ordination ceremonies Southern(buat ton mai) are performed by many participants in the Buddhist ecology movement in order toraise the awareness of the rate of environmental destruction in Thailand and to build a spiritualcommitment among local people to conserving forests and water resources (Darlington, 1998).The “earthkeeping churches”, on the other hand, engage in a ceremony which is more ecumenicalin nature with the aim of planting a greater variety of trees for commercial, religious, aesthetic, aestand ecological purposes. Silka (2001) also notes some more diffuse but widespread phenomenain India, where various environmentalist movements draw on various mythological motifs andmotivations to protect and restore local landscapes. For spiritual reasons, individuals restoredponds, saved tracts of trees, and even lobbied the government to pass legislation to protect severalsacred hills in Braj, India (Gold 2012).Using Ghana as a case study, this study was designed to gain greater insights into the effect ofsocial taboos based around religious principles on goals related to environmental protectionwithin “traditional” African communities. More specifically, this paper demonstrates how socio- sociocultural practices based around religious and spiritual attitudes have the effect of protecting the spirituallandscape from destruction and resource depletion. These socio cultural activities are often socio-culturalenshrined in the culture of African communities, as a result of strong beliefs in numerous spiritsthat are perceived to inhabit environmental goods which are often sought to offer them protection, dsecurity and peace (Monserud, 2002; Hettinger, 2005; Kuo, 2011).This study highlights that alongside other conservation initiatives such as the development ofprotected conservation areas, socio cultural practices of indigenous communities play an servation socio-culturalimportant role in protecting environmental resources. Nevertheless, few studies have specificallyexplored the role of taboos based around religious norms and ideologies in the relationship relbetween traditional communities and conservation principles. It is important to betterunderstand the role of social taboos in these areas as they may offer several advantages overmore conventional measures of conservation. For instance, in many of these regions lack of manyresources means that many conservation laws are not strictly enforced (Jones et al. 2007; deMerode and Cowlishaw 2006) and as these taboos are self enforced they provide for low self-enforcedmonitoring and low enforcement costs. Moreover, where capacity to enforce external whereconservation rules is limited, taboos based around social norms may provide the only effectiveregulations (Jones et al., 2007). Furthermore, a deeper understanding of how individuals relateto the environment can be used to formulate land use policies that are more in keeping with toindividuals’ preferences. 78
  3. 3. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012MethodologyLocated in West Africa and on the Gulf of Guinea, only a few degrees north of the Equator,Ghana is a country which encompasses flat plains, low hills and intersecting rivers. The regions intersectingselected for examination were: the Greater Accra region which is a low sandy shore along thecoast and intersected by several rivers and streams (i.e. Greater Accra region); southwest and region)south central Ghana, which is made up of a forested plateau region consisting of the Ashantiuplands and the Kwahu Plateau (i.e. Ashanti region); and finally the hilly Akuapim-Togo ranges ; Akuapimfound along the countrys eastern border (i.e. Eastern region) (Map 1). A sample of 16communities in 3 regions (Greater Accra, Eastern and Ashanti) out of the 10 regions of Ghana egionswas selected for examination. These 3 regions were selected because of their wide range ofvegetation types, ranging from the coastal savannah areas (comprising shrublands and grasslands) grassto natural forests and plantations. Specifically, the Greater Accra region lies in the coastalsavannah area characteristic of both dry land and water bodies as well as non-woody (herbaceous) nonemergent plants. The Eastern and Ashanti regions represent the forest belt of the country. Both representregions consist of semi-deciduous forests and Guinea savannah woodland belts, having a vast deciduoustropical rainforest, dominated by impressive buttress rooted forest giants alongside large cocoafarms. ASHANTI REGION EASTERN REGION GREATER ACCRA REGION Map 1. Map of Ghana showing the study regionsData for this study was based on qualitative research methods, principally interviewing and directobservation in the specific study areas. The purposive sampling technique was adopted for theselection of the study areas. Purposive sampling, which is non-probability focuses on selecting probability,certain categories of respondents relevant to the aims of the study rather than taking a random rathersample of the general public (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). This form of sampling was adopted forthis research because the study was concerned with asking about the central tendency in a largergroup (e.g., “What do most people in this population think about a particular issue”). populationData was gathered through formal interviewing of 12 officials from the Environmental ProtectionAgency (EPA) in Accra and Kumasi, 3 officials of Friends of Rivers and Water Bodies (a non-nongovernmental organization or advocacy group with the aim of protecting water bodies); and anunstructured interviewing of 82 inhabitants from the 3 regions. Table 1 shows communities in the 79
  4. 4. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012Greater Accra, Ashanti and Eastern regions of Ghana, where we carried out the field work.These interviews were designed to investigate the relationship between respondents’ spiritualityand attitudes towards the environment. These open unstructured interviews gave us a generalunderstanding of the role of religious norms in natural resource management. The initial contact management.and travel arrangements were made personally by one of the authors. The selection of the studyareas was based on travel logistics - geographical and operational - and interviewee availability.Table 1: Communities in the Greater Accra, Ashanti and Eastern regions of Ghana, where we carried out the reaterfield workRegion Community Dominant No. of interviewees ethnic groupGreater Accra Accra Metropolitan Area Ga 7 Tema Ga 6 Kweiman Ga 8 Ada Adangme 6Ashanti Kumasi Asante 9 Ejisu Asante 7 Bekwai Asante 6 Mampong Asante 5 Obuasi Asante 4 Akrokerri Asante 6 Konongo Asante 7 Bosomtwe Asante 3Eastern Aburi Akwapem 7 Koforidua Akwapem 5 Nkawkaw/Abetifi Kwawu 5 Asiakwa Akwapem 6The field survey was conducted between May and August 2006. To maximise consistency insurvey administration, all interviews were conducted personally by one of the authors. Thisauthor was also a native of Ghana and as such this limited the chance of misinterpretinginterviewees’ responses. While the official language of Ghana is English, and almost all the ponses.interviews were conducted in English, occasionally the indigenous local languages (Twi and Ga) (were used when necessary. The interviews were recorded and transcribed in the form of contentanalysis. The objective of the interviews was to identify socio cultural practices related to socio-culturalreligious principles and social taboos in those localities that help protect the environment and todetermine to what extent, if any, individuals valued the aesthetic nature of the surrounding valuedlandscape.The 16 communities in which the interviews were undertaken included Accra Metropolitan Area,Tema, Kweiman and Ada (all in Greater Accra region); Kumasi, Ejisu, Bekwai, Mampong,Obuasi, Akrokerri, Konongo and Bosomtwe (all in Ashanti region); Aburi, Koforidua, goNkawkaw/Abetifi and Asiakwa (all in the Eastern region). The interviews were characterized byopen-ended questions to allow the respondents express, in their own words, their thoughts and endedknowledge about their socio cultural practices and the effect of these on the surrounding e socio-culturalenvironment. One of the strengths of this research method is that it allows concentrated amountsof data to be produced on a precise topic of interest and allows greater insights into certain insi 80
  5. 5. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012opinions and beliefs held by respondents (Asbury 1995; Morgan, 1997; Kamberelis andDimitriadis, 2005; McIntyre et al., 2008). This insight can be difficult to achieve with otherquantitative research methods.ResultsThe relationship between traditional religious practices and the environmentIt was evident from the interview data that members of traditional communities believe that thespiritual world manifests itself in the surrounding landscape such as in rocks, trees and animals.Furthermore, they attribute what most people in Western societies regard as natural events suchas rainfall, and bush and land fires to the spiritual machinations of their gods and ancestors(Fontein (2006, 15). This means that wild animal and plant life are both revered and feared, arewhich indirectly culminates in their protection and conservation. Specifically, the intervieweesreported that indigenous Ghanaians believe in a host of spirits existing in the universe (andeverywhere in the environment), and these spirits possess significant powers that may be used tothe advantage of man or to his detriment. One interviewee, an indigenous local resident,described how “We perform sacrifices before tilling the land”, and an additional respondentcommentated how they “celebrate various festivals to pay homage to the gods that protect theenvironment in order to give us food”. This pointer of spirituality of members in traditionalcommunities in Ghana shows how religion permeates every aspect of their life.Respondents generally regard the natural environment not just as a resource to be exploited, but pondentsas something with an autonomous and worthy existence in itself. Individuals from a young ageare often taught that their existence depends largely on the environment stemming from a belief environmentthat their god pours a universal life-force in all created things, both animate and inanimate. This life forcereligious conviction, in turn, compels them to treat the environment with reverence to ensure itsprotection. One of the local re residents interviewed described: “If I start farming in those ‘virgin’forests, the gods will be angry and leave, and the environment will no longer be appealing to us”.Another indigenous local respondent described how: “Those trees, water bodies, mountains andforests are homes for our gods and spirits of our cherished ancestors. We need to protect andworship them so that the spirits will not be angry with us”. As a result of this strong spiritualconnection with nature, various shrines have been built to protect forest groves and water bodies.The yeve cult, a secret society among the Ewe of the Volta region of Ghana, builds their sacred“bush school” in the forest and the devotees appear in public fully adorned in apparels made ofleaves signifying the people’s spiritual connection with nature. ople’sSarpong (1974) reports that spirits, created by God, are perceived to have as their earthly abode,anything from rivers to creepers, and from beasts to rocks. In other words, they are domiciled innatural places and objects such as rivers, forests, rocks, mountains and the sea. Respondents ndoutlined how there are many shrines that are created in their communities for some specificspirits (especially, spirits of the dead), and these “residential areas” are used to induce fear and ireverence. They demand worship and obedience from the inhabitants of the natural environment,in default of which they inflict punishment (Ntiamoa Badu, 1995; Milton, 1996). In view of this, (Ntiamoa-Badu,several taboos are instituted and observance of these taboos often has the consequence of helping theseto conserve biological diversity. As stated by most of the officials: “The people don’t go to thefarm during certain days and seasons so that the gods can protect the land and give them morefood” and another indigenous local respondent commentated how: “Our community places a ban ron fishing in the lagoons for several months so that the river gods can have enough time to rest”.These taboos and restrictions often have spiritual underpinnings compelling indivi individuals to strictlyobey certain rules in order not to incur the wrath of the gods. These cultural practices such asrestrictions preventing people from tilling the land or fishing in some water bodies for a period oftime allow these natural resources time to replenish.Sacred natural sites as a conservation measureOne of the most important practices by the indigenous people of Ghana to ensure the protection 81
  6. 6. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012of the environment is through the development of sacred natural sites. The villages of Ghanahave a long tradition of keeping sacred groves and protecting forests due to their strong religioussignificance. The development of these sacred natural sites is based on the belief that forests,rivers, mountains, etc., serve as abodes of several spiritual forces that are harnessed for their forcessafety and continuity of life. Among the Asante, the largest ethnic group occupying the centralpart of Ghana, for example, it is believed that trees and plants are ‘homes’ to certain spirits. It isbelieved that these spirits residing in these plants or trees need to be appeased on special ritsoccasions (Hageneder, 2005; Heaven, 2008) through various religious rituals and sacrifices, suchas pouring of libation and sprinkling of food at the foot of sacred groves and trees. Sin it is the Sincebelief of indigenous Ghanaians that the natural environment is in the care of these spirits, theirpermission is sought before the trees, plants, river bodies and animals are touched. However, thistradition has an ecological context, as these groves are sanctuaries for wildlife and help to protectscarce water resources.Sacred natural sites are thought to protect the spiritual connections between people and theirenvironment (Gold, 2002; Ntiamoa Badu, 1995). As a result of spiritual beliefs, many Ntiamoa-Badu,communities throughout the country have given a special status to natural sites such as mountains,rivers, lakes, caves, forest groves, coastal waters and ponds. Respondents reported that thespiritual connections compel people to revere and protect the natural environment. As one surveyrespondent, an indigenous local resident, stated: “those thick forests were places where ourforefathers received their protection from the gods”. Those natural sites, which are given spiritualstatus, represent the homes of their gods, and are therefore protected and conserved. Indigenouscommunities also hold water bodies as sacred and as such strict taboos are often instituted toprotect water resources from pollution. For instance, it is a taboo to defecate near water bodies. It wis also a taboo to use poisonous chemicals to fish in some rivers as fish are often regarded aschildren of the river deity (Eshun, 2011). Certain animal species are also held to be sacred bycertain clans and as such are protected from hunting as it is believed they provide spiritual huntinginspiration.The aesthetic appeal of the natureWhile members of traditional communities engage in these practices for religious purposes theyappeared to strongly value the aesthetic benefits that such behaviour provides. Specifically, behaviourrespondents indicated that they “love” the physical appearance of trees, flowers blossoming,calmness and coolness of rivers, serenity of the forests and groves as well as the creatures thatinhabit them. The degree to which some parts of the surrounding landscape have been unaltered whichby development was frequently reported as an important facet of its value. As one local officialstated: “Those forests that we do ‘touch’ are rich and beautiful”. As stated by another EPAofficial: “Ooh, having sight-seeing along the bank of water-bodies early in the morning and seeing water bodiesbefore darkness falls in the evening is beautiful”. Respondents (i.e. officials from the EPA and beautiful”.Friends of Rivers and Water Bodies) even reported that the natural environment, if experienced in environment,its “virgin” state, can help to alleviate stress. For instance, one of these respondents commentatedhow: “We admire the thick foliage of the trees under which we rest. This gives us the opportunityto think deeply about life”, and one of the local residents stated: “I love going to the countrysideto enjoy the sight of the natural environment to enable us shed some stress”. stress”Future ChallengesDespite the presence of strong socio cultural practices aimed at protecting the natural socio-cultural naturaenvironment, interviewees reported that in recent times a range of development pressures such asmining, road construction and stone quarrying have had a negative impact on many cultural sitesand nature reserves in Ghana. Respondents outlined that previously most sacred natural sites and previouslyforest groves were considered by indigenous people of Ghana as sacred and therefore, all humanactivities in those areas were prohibited. Certain streams, for instance, are considered sacred andeven though sand, which people can mine, is found near them, by traditional beliefs of Ghanaians, eopleit used to be a taboo to mine from those streams. However, due to an increase in developmental 82
  7. 7. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012pressures, coupled with a decline in the reverence to traditional religious practices, respondents rreport that many previous uncultivated or sacred lands are coming under increasing threat. Ineffect the increasing popularity of other religions such as Christianity has eroded the effect ofthese cultural taboos.DiscussionMany of the distinctive characteristics of particular landscapes are in danger of being lost, even nctivethough they are highly valued by society. This is due to external economic and environmentalpressures which can lead to radical changes in biological diversity except where appropriatepolicies are in place. Religion has the potential to shape peoples’ attitudes towards nature,particularly in ‘traditional’ communities and therefore should be given greater consideration as afactor in environmental policy. As described by Jefferson and skinner (1974, 27) “for most JeffersonAfricans, land is more than a source of wealth; it is sacred. It gives people life and so peoplebelieve they have been entrusted with land and must in return treasure it.”This study explored the relationship between institutional norms shaped by religious perspectives betweenon biological conservation. To date, there has been limited attention given to the role of religiousnorms and associated taboos play in governing interactions between traditional communities andnatural resource management. Table 2 below shows some cultural practices that have positive raleffects on the environment. Nature plays, however, an important role in indigenous Africanreligions and a better understanding of this relationship should aid the design of more effective desiconservation policy. Conservation strategies are more likely to be successful if they are inkeeping with the values and attitudes of the local population. Furthermore, informal institutionsbased on spiritual perspectives should receive greater attention from conservation biologists, as receivein certain areas, they may provide the only effective regulations aimed, albeit indirectly, atconservation. This study demonstrated how the spirituality of elements of nature such asparticular locations, plants and animals has been an integral part of life in traditional communities ons,in Ghana. A belief system which stipulates spiritual connections between humans and naturehave helped to protect the biological richness of Ghana. As a result of beliefs that recognise the beliefpower and spirituality of nature, traditional communities have a sense of spiritual and practicalrespect for all the environmental components of their landscape. Fear of divine sanctions fromfailing to observe various cultural taboos have helped to prevent abuse of the environment. taboosTable 2: Some cultural practices that have positive effect on the environment Regions Types of cultural practices Effect on the environment Greater Accra Ban on drumming and dancing as well as Reduction of noise pollution, protecting all forms of excessive noise s noise-making for 30 birds and wildlife to relax days to precede the Homowo festival (a festival celebrated by the Ga people to literally “hoot at hunger” Eastern & Women in their menstrual cycles are Prevention of pollution of water bodies Ashanti forbidden to wash in the ponds and as well as the protecting of biodiversity streams in the community. Also, it is a taboo for all persons to urinate and defecate in those water bodies Ashanti, Greater Farmers should not go to their farms or till The land goes through a fallow process Accra & Eastern the land during certain seasons when some for conservation and rejuvenation ritual festivals are celebrated to venerate the gods and ancestors 83
  8. 8. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012 Greater Accra & All persons are prohibited from cutting Offers total protection to the “virgin” Eastern trees and killing animals in sacred natural biodiversity and maintains their aesthetic forests in the communities qualities Ashanti, Most of lineages (clans) have certain types ost Protects biodiversity from over- over Greater Accra of animals, birds and plants, which are an exploitation or possible “extermination” & Eastern abomination for the people to kill, harvest or eat any of themInstitutional norms shaped by religious principles, such as a belief that spirits of ancestors are eddomiciled in everyday environmental goods, play an important conservation role in shapingpeoples’ interaction with natural resources and their attitudes towards wildlife. More specifically, spethe results presented here illustrate how institutional norms such as cultural taboos that prohibitdevelopment on certain landscapes, moral laws preventing the destruction of certain animal andplant species and ban on fishing and farming during certain seasons, although with religious duringorigins, have important ecological functions. These institutional norms should receive greaterattention so that potential synergies with conservation policy can be realized. As Kellert et al.(1996) notes, a deeper understanding of cultural attitudes and beliefs is important in shaping the perdesign of conservation strategies.Previous anthropological research and writing on environmental issues in the field of religion andecology (Milton, 1996; Sarpong, 1974; Ntiamoa-Badu, 1995; Oviedo et al, 2000) also supports Nt Badu,the view that socio-cultural practices can be effective in protecting the environment from culturaldegradation. Indeed these informal institutions can not only be more cost effective than moreformal intuitions that depend on third-party agencies for their development and enforcement, but hat third partythey can in certain circumstances be more effective. We can see in Ghana, for instance, thatformal conservation areas are frequently encroached upon and often of far more releva relevance incertain areas are the socio-cultural practices and cultural taboos of traditional communities. culturalTraditional communities have a deep seated respect for the environment. While traditional deep-seatedcommunities observe certain strict behaviours as a result of religious beliefs, they also appear to religiousstrongly value the aesthetic benefits arising from these cultural practices. Many respondents, forinstance, commentated that they strongly value the aesthetic appeal of the landscape in itsunaltered state. Finally, it is important to note that with the increasing popularity of other treligions such as Christianity among traditional communities in Africa, the various restrictionsand ways of life which helped protect the environment no longer have the same hold on people. peoplIf traditional beliefs are eroded then this can have a negative effect on habitats protected bytaboos (Anoliefo et al., 2003). It remains to be seen, therefore, whether the perceived spiritualconnection between man and nature will continue to have an effect on behaviour in the future.ConclusionResults presented here suggest that socio cultural practices can be harnessed for goals related to socio-culturalenvironmental protection. Environmental and socio cultural conditions of the developing socio-culturalcountries like Ghana differ from that of the developed countries. The aim of this paper was to aexplore the socio-cultural practices and nature conservation to highlight the aesthetic benefits of culturalnatural landscapes. Many of the distinctive characteristics of particular landscapes are in danger landscof being lost, even though they are highly valued by society. This is due to external economic andenvironmental pressures which can lead to radical changes in the landscape except whereappropriate policies are in place. As such it is important to uncover new ways in which we can important 84
  9. 9. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012protect certain landscapes and habitats. The aesthetic value of the natural environment is a veryimportant phenomenon for environmental protection in every part of the globe (Hettinger, 2005;Styers et al, 2010). Even in Ghana, issues related to the aesthetic benefits of the natural ).environment, which are embedded in the religious practices of the people, are a major concern tothe nation. Results presented here suggest that socio cultural practices can be harnessed for goals socio-cultural harnrelated to environmental protection.The results presented here demonstrate how positive socio cultural practices such as cultural socio-culturaltaboos that prohibit people from destroying some parts of the environment, moral laws institutedby the local people to prevent the destruction of certain animal and plant species and ban on lfishing and farming during certain seasons (Ntiamoa Badu, 1995; Gold, 2002) are practical steps (Ntiamoa-Badu,that save the natural landscape from destruction. These restrictions are impo imposed as a result ofreligious or spiritual beliefs but have the positive side effect of allowing natural resources thetime to rejuvenate and replenish. In addition to providing aesthetic benefits in terms ofmaintaining the visual quality of the countryside, these practices also provide economic benefits countryside,in that they help to prevent the irreversible depletion of the stock of certain natural resources ( stocks).Attitudes towards the landscape are place specific and therefore policymakers need to be more bcognisant of local stakeholders attitudes and preferences. What is appropriate in terms of landuse policy for one area may not be for another. Specifically, policy prescription in developingcountries may have to be very different to that employed in Western countries to be successful. employedOne such example is in the case of nature reserves. We can see in Ghana that these areencroached upon and of far more relevance are the socio cultural practices and cultural taboos of socio-culturalthese indigenous communities. Efforts should be focused therefore on maintaining the stronglinkages between values of individuals and the environment.The findings further suggest that since socio-cultural practices of Ghanaians are not static but socio culturaldynamic, issues relating to the environment keep changing. This phenomenon requires environmentcontinuous monitoring, an increasing capacity for farsighted and integrated understanding andcommitment to sustainable development. Moreover, as the Ghanaian population grows, the trade-tradeoffs between environmental protection and economic developments are likely to become more entalapparent. Although what happens to the environment may be an important issue, it is rarely themost urgent one. Issues of national security, availability of employment opportunities and level of lincomes remain at the top of policy agendas. In contrast, clear environmental threats that compelaction are rare, making the challenge of effective and timely response all the greater.Also, the study identifies that developing beautiful landscape architecture to suit a particular landscapetopography of the natural environment purposely to serve aesthetic functions, and also involvingthe social and cultural constructs of that particular society in the project to showcase a sense ofcultural identity and belongingness could facilitate the appreciation and protection of theaesthetic aspects of the natural environment. In view of this, it is important to considerthoroughly polices that promote visual quality of the environment as a whole to promote theintegration of landscaping, wildflowers, scenic strips and overlooks, scenic highways, parks and egrationhistoric places, rest areas which may accommodate sculpture, outdoor advertising and otheroriginal art forms to enhance the aesthetic value of the environment. Finally, developing a strong inally,link between socio-cultural practices and nature conservation may be an objective grounding of culturalappreciating the aesthetic aspects of the natural landscape to address environmental issues forsustainable development.ReferencesAnoliefo, G.O., Isikhumen, O.S. and Ochije, N.R. (2002). Environmental implications of theerosion of cultural taboo practices in Awka South local government area of Anambra State, Awka-South 85
  10. 10. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012Nigeria: 1. Forests, trees, and water resource preservation. Journal of A Agricultural andEnvironmental Ethics, 16: 281 281-296.Asbury, J.E. (1995). Overview of focus group research.Qualitative Health Research, 5(4), 414- research.Qualitative Research420.Colding, J., and Folke, C. (2001) Social taboos: “invisible” systems of local resourcemanagement and biological conservation. Ecological Applications, 11: 584 logical , 584-600.(Darlington, 1998)De Groot R. S., Alkemade R., Braa L., Hein L.,Willemen, L. (2002). Challenges in integratingthe concept of ecosystem services and values in landscape planning, management and decisionmaking.Ecological Complexity 7:260-272. Doi:10.1016/j.ecocom.2009.10.000 Ecological 272.deMerode, E., and Cowlishaw, G. (2006) Species protection, the changing informal economy, andthe politics of access to the bushmeat trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Conservation CongBiology, 20, 1262-1271.Fontein, Joost.2006. The Silence of Great Zimbabwe: Contested Landscapes and the Power ofHeritage. Harare: Weaver Press. .Gold, A. G., (2002). Environment/Ritual/Research Ethics: Crisscrossing Issues in Anthropology Anthropoloand Religious Studies. [Accessed, F., (2005).The Meaning of Trees: Botany, History, Healing, Lore Chronicle Books. The Lore.ISBN0-8118-4823-X., R. (2008). Plant Spirit Wisdom. John Hunt Publishing Ltd. UK.Hettinger, N., (2005). “Objectivity in Environmental Aesthetics and Environmental Protection”.Charleston, USA. [Accessed 01/06/2006], M and Skinner, E.P. 1974 “Roots of time: A portrait of African life and Culture.”Garden City, New Jersey: Double Day and Company.Jones, J.P.G., Andriamarovolona, M.M. and Hockley, N. (2007) The importance of taboos andsocial norms to conservation in Madagascar. Conservation Biology, 22(3) 976 , 976-986.Kamberelis, G. and Dimitriadis, G., (2005). Focus groups: Strategic articulations of pedagogy,politics, and inquiry. In Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (3rd Ed.), Qualitative Research. Thousand .Oaks, CA: Sage.Kellert, S.R., Black, C.R. Rush and Bath, A.J. (1996) Human culture and large carnivoreconservation in North America. America.Conservation Biology, 10, 977-990.Kuo, M. (2011). Reshaping Gateway Landscape Towards a Better Urb Identity - Taipei UrbanGateway Project IFLA APR Congress - Hospitality: The Interaction with Land. 19-21, Bangkok, LandThailandEshun, E. K. (2011) Religion and nature in Akan culture: A case study of Okyeman EnvironmentFoundation.McGranahan, D. A. (2010) Identifying ecological sustainability assessment factors for ecological 86
  11. 11. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences www.iiste.orgISSN 2222-1719 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2863 (Online) 2863Vol 2, No.10, 2012ecotourism and trophy hunting operations on private rangeland in Namibia, Journal of NamibiaSustainable Tourism, 19: 1, 115 — 131, First published on: 08 July 2010 (iFirst): DOI: ,10.1080/09669582.2010.497219 URL: 23/04/2011McIntyre, N., Moore, J., & Yuan, M. (2008).A place place-based, values-centred approach to managing centredrecreation on Canadian Crown lan lands.Society and Natural Resources, 21(8), 657 , 657-670.Monserud, B. (2002). Religion and ecology: visions for an emerging academic field. ConsultationReport.Worldviews 6.Morgan, D. (1997). Focus groups as qualitative research (2nd Edition) Edition). Sage Publication,California.Milton, K., (1996). Environmentalism and Cultural Theory: Exploring the Role of Anthropologyin Environmental Discourse. Routledge, New York.Ntiamoa-Badu, Y., (1995). West African Wildlife: A Resource in Jeopardy. Unasylva Badu,Ode, A., Fry, G., Tveit, M.S., Messager, P., Miller, D., (2009).Indicators of perceived naturalnessas drivers of landscape preference. Environ Manage, 90, 380-381. preference.JOnyewuenyi, I. C., (1984). Traditional African Aesthetic: A philosophical Perspective, “IPQ”,Vol. xxx14, No 3.Oviedo, Gonzalo; Maffi, L. and Larsen, P., (2002).Indigenous and Traditional Peoples of theWorld Ecoregion Conservation. An Integrated Approach to Conserving the World’s Biologicaland Cultural Diversity. WWF International Gland, Switzerland.Roosbroeck, P.V and Amlalo, D. S. 2006. “Country Environmental Profile of Ghana (Final DraftReport) (Ref: MWH 47501004.001 rev.0).Sarpong, P., (1974). Ghana in Retrospect: Some Aspects of Ghanaian Culture. Ghana PublishingCompany, Tema, GhanaSilka, L., (2001). “Rituals and Research Ethics: Using One Community’s Experience toReconsider the Ways that Communities and Researchers Build Sustainable Partnerships”. Partnerships”Research Ethics Resource Book.Collaborative Initiative for Research Ethics in EnvironmentalHealth.Styers D.M., Chappelka A. H.,.Marzen L. J, and Somers G. L., (2010).“Developing a landcoverclassification to select indicators of forest ecosystem health in a rapidly urbanizing landscape,”Landscape and Urban Planning, vol. 94, no. 3-4, pp. 158–165, PlanningVos, W. and Meekes, H. (1999) Trends in European cultural landscape development: perspectivesfor a sustainable future.Landscape and Urban Planning, 46, pp. 3-14. Landscape Planning 87
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