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The dying embers of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK)?: The case of the “death” of a perennial stream and the degradation of adjoining forests in a rural community in Ghana

This paper discusses the fading role of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in the conservation of the environment in a rural community in Ghana. It questions the long term viability of TEK and suggests ways that Jesuit education can help in creating a sustainable future for indigenous knowledge for our common home. The paper uses the case of a perennial stream and the adjoining forest located in the Kpando District of the Volta Region of Ghana to buttress the call to action. Many scholars have underlined the critical importance of utilizing TEK as one of the key tools in overcoming the wanton degradation of ecological resources in some parts of the world (Sinthumule, 2023; Carter, 2008; Snively and Corsiglia, 2001). Unlike societies which rely on formal methods of conservation, many in rural areas of the non-western world strive to achieve the same results of conservation through non-formal methods that emanate from a local indigenous knowledge base. The methods used in Africa include the reliance on taboos and totems, customary laws and regulations, customs and rituals, traditional protected areas, and metaphors and proverbs (Sinthumule, 2023). The paper discusses the case of a perennial stream (Toklolo) and its adjoining land and forests and how the traditional methods have effectively preserved the stream and its adjoining forest for ages. The sacred stream and its forest however “died” because of societal changes that supplanted the time-honored approaches that protected the ecological resources. Destroying the traditional systems that have served as the bedrock of the maintenance function in the rural ecosystems is akin to throwing away the proverbial baby with the bathwater. The paper therefore suggests various ways in which TEK can be adapted and used to positively impact ecological sustainability efforts. Jesuit education has the great potential to lead the world in helping to create a sustainable future of our common home through the ‘re-discovery’ and the systematic use of TEK to protect our ecological resources.