THE DZINDZISO METHOD.
Common Property resources can be described as community’s natural resources where every member has access and usage with specified obligations, without anybody having exclusive property right over them. (Jodha, 1986). In simple terms, they are resources that everybody has access to and they are managed collectively by the community in which they are found. Examples of common property resources include; fisheries, wildlife, forests, rivers, lakes, and wetlands. It must however be noted that, common properties are not only related to natural resources but can also be man-made resources that serve the general public interest. For example public transport and and hospitals.
The sensitive, free access and the important nature of common property resources have made them to be subject of unsustainable exploitation and extraction by man. This has led to some common property resources being over exploited leading to their eventual destruction. These actions has called for particular social measures to protect and manage these resources in such a way that everybody can benefit from it and at the same time sustaining the resources. These actions are known as common property regimes. Even though there are currently modern common property regimes used by governments and other authorities to protect common property resources, traditional authorities in various communities with common property resources have their own ways of regulating the use of common property resources. They have use traditional methods such as beliefs, taboos and other methods to protect common property resources over the years.
Dzindziso is a small village found in the northern part of the Volta Region of Ghana. It is a few kilometers after Kajebi and on the route to Kete Krachie and Dambai in the northern part of Volta Region of Ghana. It is a border town as well between Ghana and Togo. The people in the village are known as the Basares. The area abounds in a lot of natural resources which include; vast forest land, wildlife (donkey, monkey and elephant), and the Dzindzi river ( the river from which the town got its name).
Common Property resources in Dzindziso are sustained through three important traditional methods. This include; the division of the resources among the various clans, beliefs and taboos. The following paragraphs throw more light on how the people used these three methods to protect their natural resources.
The forest in Dzindziso is divided among the clans with each clan having their own portion of the forest. Only members from a clan can have access to the portion of forest allocated to that clan. The forest is further divided into two parts. This includes the general farming and hunting area and the sacred part of the forest. Each clan is believed to have their gods in the form of wild animals residing in the sacred part of the forest. For example, in my clan, the lion is believed to be our god, so the lion is believed to be residing in the sacred part of our portion of the forest. Hence no one goes into the sacred part of the forest except the clan elders. The division of the forest among the various clans has encouraged each clan to protect and maintain their portion of the forest since people are not allowed access to other clans portion of the forest. Over the years each clan has been able to maintain their portion of the forest and even till date, the sacred areas of the forests are still in existence. In addition, Fridays are reserved for the forest. It is on this day that clan heads go into the sacred parts of the forest to pour libation and to appease the gods. So on Fridays, work on the farms and hunting is prohibited. Hunting in the forest is also monitored because hunters have to seek permission from the clan leaders before they enter into the deeper parts of the forest to hunt. After every hunting expedition, the meat or game captured is sent to the clan leaders where one third of the meat is taken and the rest given to the hunter. Guns are not allowed to be used during the day time by hunters. They are only allowed in the night. Thus, only bow and arrow, cutlass and trap are allowed during the day time. This makes it difficult to catch more animals during the day time and one could only catch a game when they set traps. All this activities are geared towards regulating the manner in which hunting is conducted and also to prevent the overexploitation of the animals in the forest.
Taboos and beliefs are also used to regulate the use of common property resources in the area. A taboo is a strong social prohibition (or ban) relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and/or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus (Arthur R 2008). The breakings of these taboos attract various forms of punishment. Taboos have help in regulating and protecting certain plants and animals from being exploited by the people. For example, in Dzindziso, it is a total abomination to cut down a Baobab tree. Baobab trees are very uncommon in the area and besides that, the tree is seen as mother of all the trees in the world, hence every effort is used to protect it. The Baobab tree generally serves as centers for social activities in the village and many people usually gather under baobab trees to relax and discuss issues after a hard day’s work. Anyone who breaks this taboo can suffer punishments ranging from heavy fines or can even face banishment from the village. Killing of animals such as monkeys, donkeys and elephants are another serious taboo in the village. Donkey in particular is used as a beast of transport in the area and this has made it a very important animal therefore anyone who cause any form of harm to it is heavily punished.
The taboos and beliefs also apply to the Dzindzi River found in the place. It is believed by the people that, the deep waters of the river are a haven for crocodiles. This is used to prevent people from fishing deep into the river. Thus, fishing is done only in the shallow waters since the people are afraid to go deeper into the river where crocodiles are. Even though, no one has ever seen a crocodile in the river before, the belief alone has scared and is scaring people from fishing deep into the river which could lead to the over exploitation of the fish resources in the river. Furthermore, the use of anything oily is not allowed in the river. The people believe that anything oily will send away the goddess who has been protecting the people from crocodile attacks since the goddess do not like oil. A critical analysis of this belief has shown that most women in the village are engaged in the use of palm oil and other deadly chemicals to manufacture soap and after they have finished with everything, they wash off the pans they use in the production of the soap in the river and this is deadly for fishes in the river. Therefore this belief was instituted to deter the women from washing the oily stuffs in the river to prevent pollution of the river.
Sanctions and punishment of various degrees are meted out to people found culpable of breaking any of these taboos and beliefs and since nobody wants to fall victim to any of these punishments, they do well to uphold them.
To conclude, as it has been outline in the aforementioned paragraphs, the people of Dzindziso use three main traditional methods of beliefs, taboos and division of resources among clans to protect the natural resources they have. Even though some of the beliefs and taboos may sound fascinating, they have gone a long way in protecting the resources of the area till date.