In Benin, there are an estimated 3000 sacred forests of varying sizes ranging from a few acres to hundreds of hectares, as well as sacred lakes, ponds and wetlands. Shrines are located in communities where rituals honor the spirits and the Ancestors that protect the forests, waters, animals and humans.
Because of the many functions that these forests and other sacred natural sites play in the lives of local communities, and the reverence for them that is held through the ancestral Vodou religion, they are an important contribution to the conservation of biodiversity and ancestral knowledge. Indeed, they are living examples of how local traditions contribute to the safeguarding of endangered flora and fauna as well as human well-being. However, several factors are contributing to their rapid decline, including land clearance, erosion of traditional beliefs and governance systems, and the weakened power of spiritual leaders.
This project will revive and pass on ancestral and spiritual knowledge to the youth. Annual rituals for the spiritual regeneration of the sacred forests will involve the entire community.
Through these ceremonies and rituals, the community will continue to work toward ensuring the health of their sacred forests and fortifying the Elders who will pass on the ancestral knowledge to the next generations. The Elders have called for the revival of an annual ritual during which prayers are offered for rain and peace in the community.