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Using Traditional Festival Days for Environmental Education

Number 16 - July 1998

George Owusu-Afriyie

Aburi Botanic Garden in Ghana is often the host venue for days of traditional festival celebrations. Festivals in Ghana are often associated with the history of a particular group or area. Odwira, for example, is an annual traditional festival of some Akan people, and some of the people of the Akuapen traditional areas. The festival is a time to cleanse oneself of wrongful deeds and to pacify the gods. (The Akan word Odwira means 'cleansing'). During this time, the living commune spiritually with their dead ancestors, through offering of a libation to the ancestors and their gods, asking for guidance and protection.

Aburi Botanic Gardens always hosts the Grand Durbar, a formal reception of Chiefs and people of Aburi and the surrounding villages for the address of the Paramount Chief, an important day of the eight-day festival. On this day, the Gardens are opened to the general public without charge. The Garden's Education Department makes the most of this opportunity to run a number of programmes for visitors in the morning, before the Durbar of Chiefs in the afternoon.

One of the Garden's programmes aims to educate visitors about the enormous potential of the cashew, which has emerged in recent times as an important economic crop and has been identified as a potential non-traditional export crop for Ghana. In view of the economic value of this emerging crop, NGOs and botanic garden educators have introduced programmes to inform farmers and families with land about the benefits of cashew production. A number of NGOs and individuals are propagating seedlings for interested farmers.

Another programme highlights the Spice Lawn, which has been established in the Garden as a resource area to teach the general public as well as schoolchildren about the importance of spices. The species on the lawn include bay tree (Pimenta racemosa), cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), nutmeg (Myristica fragrans), tetraptera (Tetrapluera tetraptera) and black pepper (Piper nigrum).

Aburi Botanic Garden has maximised its potential by using traditional festival days for public and community education.