Environmental Conservation and Preservation of Cultural Heritage: Assets for Tourism Development in the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area of Ghana

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Environmental Conservation and Preservation of Cultural Heritage: Assets for Tourism Development in the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area of Ghana
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  Worldviews (2012) DOI 󰀱󰀰.󰀱󰀱󰀶󰀳/󰀱󰀵󰀶󰀸󰀵󰀳󰀵󰀷-󰀰󰀱󰀷󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀴 © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2012 DOI 󰀱󰀰.󰀱󰀱󰀶󰀳/󰀱󰀵󰀶󰀸󰀵󰀳󰀵󰀷-󰀰󰀱󰀷󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀴 brill.com/wo WORLDVIEWS Environmental Conservation and Preservation of Cultural Heritage: Assets for Tourism Development in the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area of Ghana Paul Sarfo-Mensah a , Akwasi Owusu-Bi b , Samuel Awuah-Nyamekye c  and Steve Amisah d a) Bureau of Integrated Rural Development, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology (KNUST), Kumasi Ghana pksm01@yahoo.com b) Bureau of Integrated Rural Development, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources,  Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology (KNUST), Kumasi Ghana revowusubi@yahoo.com c) Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Leeds, 12 Trentham Grove, Leeds,LS 11 6HT, United Kingdom kwasi.nyamekye@yahoo.com d) Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, KNUST, Kumasi Ghana steveamisah1@yahoo.co.uk   Abstract Environmental conservation and preservation of religio-cultural heritage for tourism development in the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area in the Eastern Region of Ghana have been examined in this paper. The location has a rich blend of dramatic landscape, historic relics and traditional cultures. Five traditional divisions make up the traditional area and have magni􀁦󰁩cent renewable natural resources including forests, waterfalls, rivers, caves and a rich diversity of wildlife and sanctuaries that could be developed further into a tourism destination site for the bene􀁦󰁩t of the area, in particular, and the state as a whole. The area has a unique cultural heritage, with the chieftaincy institution remaining as the center piece. The annual festivals of the chiefs and people of the traditional area, especially the Odwira festival, are celebrated annually by the people, and this attracts a considerable number of people including foreign tourists to the area. A complex and interrelated combination of factors threatens the further development and conservation of the environmental and cultural heritage of the area for tourism. These threats arise mainly from anthropogenic factors such as farming, forest logging, and bush 􀁦󰁩res, but also from the  weakening of traditional institutions and limited national governmental support. Population-related pressures on land and other natural resources have a󰁦fected traditional natural resources management. Fallow periods have been reduced and continuous cropping has become common. The growing demand for land and the presence of migrants have extended agriculture to marginal lands, forest reserves and some sacred sites. A number of recommendations have been made to enhance the preservation of the local cultural heritage and environmental conservation. Capacity building, education and public aware-ness creation, dialogue among various religious groups, collaborative management of 0001718536.INDD 19/25/2012 6:54:14 PM  2    P. Sarfo-Mensah et al. / Worldviews (2012) DOI 󰀱󰀰.󰀱󰀱󰀶󰀳/󰀱󰀵󰀶󰀸󰀵󰀳󰀵󰀷-󰀰󰀱󰀷󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀴   natural resources, training and provision of alternative livelihoods have been suggested as options to conserve environmental and cultural heritage to boost environmental conservation and tourism development in the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area. Keywords environmental conservation, cultural heritage, Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area, tourism,  African traditional religion Introduction The conservation, protection and management of indigenous, ecological and sacred sites have in recent times received global attention because of the tremendous potential they hold for sustainable livelihoods, recreation and scienti􀁦󰁩c research. The maintenance of these sites is, invariably, linked to the preservation of local cultures because of the mutual interactions and interdependence that exist between the local people and their natural environment (Subash Chandran and Donald Hughes 2000; Fairhead and Leach 1998). Indeed, the sustainable development of a people has now been recognized in many scholarly works to depend, to a greater extent, on how they manage the totality of their natural environment and preserve their cultural heritage including their diverse traditional institutions and oral literature (Ojomo 2010; Awoonor 2006 and 1975; Chapple 1994; Beier 1980).In Ghana, it is arguable that very little work has been done in under-standing these cultural heritage assets and their potential for promoting sustainable development, especially for the traditional areas that are endowed with these assets (Awoonor 2006). Indeed, researchers have pointed to the fact that in Ghana as elsewhere in Africa most of these heri-tage assets, which include sacred groves, shrines of local gods, river deities, many unique natural and cultural endowments as well as the environmen-tal ethics that underlie their governance, have come under tremendous pressure, and their sustainability is threatened (Sarfo-Mensah et al. 2010; Feldman 2000; Beier 1980). In Ghana, as observed by Feldman elsewhere, ethical concerns about the treatment of natural objects can, and for a true environmental ethic, should stem from commitments to the value of these natural objects, their functioning and biological integrity (Feldman 2000: 4). Increasingly, however, these cultural heritage assets in the country are losing their integrity.In this paper, the need to preserve the rich religio-cultural heritage and to conserve the magni􀁦󰁩cent ecological diversity and sacred sites of the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area in the Eastern Region of Ghana is 0001718536.INDD 29/25/2012 6:54:14 PM   P. Sarfo-Mensah et al. / Worldviews (2012) DOI 󰀱󰀰.󰀱󰀱󰀶󰀳/󰀱󰀵󰀶󰀸󰀵󰀳󰀵󰀷-󰀰󰀱󰀷󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀴  3presented. The threats to these assets and local e󰁦forts at reversing the trend have been examined. Possible options for harnessing the potential of these assets for tourism and to bring rapid socio-economic transformation to the traditional area have been discussed. Conceptual Framework  Two key areas that underline contemporary tourism in Africa and most developing countries are culture and environment. In fact, ecotourism,  which has become a keyword amongst development practitioners and tour-ism experts is rooted in environment and culture. The richness of these attri-butes, i.e. culture and environment, and how they have been harnessed for tourism may, to a large extent, determine a country’s standing on the global scale of endowed tourists destinations. The increasing realisation of the major roles culture and environment play in tourism has, therefore, encour-aged several developing countries to redirect policies on preservation of their cultural heritage, and conservation of their environmental resources. What is signi􀁦󰁩cant in most of these policies is the recognition by policy-makers and development practitioners that culture and environment are inextricably linked and that they mutually in󐁦󰁬uence each other (Milton 1996). Thus, sustainable environmental conservation is now conceived as unachievable without adequately factoring cultural attributes, especially religious beliefs and practices as well as traditional institutions which shape people’s worldview, into environmental conservation policies. In fact, this thinking has been emphasized by environmental and social anthro-pologists in a theory that human-environment relations are mediated by culture (Awuah-Nyamekye 2009a, Descola and Palsson 1996; Milton 1996).For example, in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa, local deities take their srcins from the forests, rivers, caves and other designated areas in the landscape. And, the existential connection between the local people and these deities has ensured the conservation and protection of these sacred sites. Additionally, the annual festivals of some of these deities,  which are also occasions for exposition of the rich culture of the people, attract tourists.In the broadest sense, therefore, a pragmatic approach to realizing the tourism potentials, especially of countries in Africa, must be within the framework of sustainably harnessing their cultural and environmental assets. This implies that concerted e󰁦forts must be made at the conserva-tion of the environment and preservation of local cultures including 0001718536.INDD 39/25/2012 6:54:14 PM  4    P. Sarfo-Mensah et al. / Worldviews (2012) DOI 󰀱󰀰.󰀱󰀱󰀶󰀳/󰀱󰀵󰀶󰀸󰀵󰀳󰀵󰀷-󰀰󰀱󰀷󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀴   certain beliefs and practices, such as rituals or magic―which interplay the daily engagement of people with their environment. Methodology  This presentation is based on an anthropological study undertaken in  Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area of Eastern region of Ghana (see 􀁦󰁩g. 1) between June 2004 and January 2005 to examine the preservation and con-servation of cultural heritage of the people and its potential for tourism. Subsequent to this, the research team carried out follow-up activities in the traditional area in the last quarter of 2009 to cross-check some of the initial 􀁦󰁩ndings.Two principal anthropological methods, participant observation and key-informant interviews, were used to collect data in the 􀁦󰁩eld. These tech-niques are used by anthropologists and other social scientist to understand indigenous knowledge (Agar and Hobbs 1985; Dougherty and Keller 1985). Participant observation, for instance, involves spending a great deal of time in surroundings with which one may not be familiar, and securing and maintaining relationships with people with whom one may have little a󰁦􀁦󰁩nity, in order to study their way of life (May, 1996).Since our study was within the qualitative research methodology  which usually does not involve large numbers of respondents (Bryman 2008; Ratcli󰁦f 2005), a sample size of 􀁦󰁩fty (53) from the following targeted groups were selected and interviewed :  Omanhene (Paramount chief) of the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area, divisional chiefs, traditional priests and priestesses, sacred sites attendants, District wildlife, tourism, and environmental o󰁦􀁦󰁩cials, and the leadership of the O   ̱ kyeman Environmen-tal Brigade. The selection of the above key informants was informed by the fact they are key stakeholders on matters of tourism and the environ-ment in the study area. The semi-structured interview guide was used during the interview and the average length of each interview was one hour. Also, in order to ensure that our key informants were people with di󰁦fer-ent shades of opinions, the quota sampling procedure (Dixon et al 1987)  was used in the selection of members of the targeted group. The breakdown is shown in the table 1 below. A stakeholders’ conference was also held after the initial 􀁦󰁩eldwork. It was attended by the Paramount Chief, chiefs from the various divi-sions, district administrators, and several other development agents and 0001718536.INDD 49/25/2012 6:54:14 PM   P. Sarfo-Mensah et al. / Worldviews (2012) DOI 󰀱󰀰.󰀱󰀱󰀶󰀳/󰀱󰀵󰀶󰀸󰀵󰀳󰀵󰀷-󰀰󰀱󰀷󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀰󰀴  5practitioners. The conference was used to triangulate the information gath-ered and to 􀁦󰁩ll in the gaps relating to history and migration of major royal clans and peoples, con􀁦󰁩rmation of controversial totems and symbols relat-ing to local gods, ownership of sacred groves among others. The forum did not only provide the opportunity for the 􀁦󰁩lling of gaps but also o󰁦fered a chance for the research team to deepen its understanding of the relation-ships between the local culture and environment. Emphasis was placed on 􀁦󰁩nding out local perceptions on the intensi􀁦󰁩cation of the extraction of natural resources such as logging and mining in the traditional area in recent times and their e󰁦fects on general biodiversity conservation as well the protection of the cultural and natural heritage sites. Results and Discussions The Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area  Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area is one of the ancient traditional areas in modern day Ghana (personal communication Kyebi  Abontendomhene,  2005) .  It is an inland area in Southern Ghana. Its capital, Kyebi, is situated Table 1.   Breakdown of interviewees No.Category of intervieweeTotal no. selectedDetails1Traditional Rulers6The Paramount Chief of the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area and 4 of his divisional chiefs purposively selected from the tradi-tional area.2Religious o󰁦􀁦󰁩cials102 traditional priests (a male and a female) from each of the 􀁦󰁩ve districts (randomly selected)3Sacred site Attendants153 from each of the 5 districts (randomly selected)4District Wild Life o󰁦􀁦󰁩cials5The district heads (purposively selected)5District Administrators5The District Coordinating Directors (DCDs) (purposively selected)6District Tourism o󰁦􀁦󰁩cials5The district heads (purposively selected)7District Environmental o󰁦􀁦󰁩cials5The district heads (purposively selected)8O   ̱ kyeman Environmental Brigade o󰁦􀁦󰁩cials2Chairman and Secretary( purposively selected)Total53 0001718536.INDD 59/25/2012 6:54:14 PM
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