Forêt Sacrée Affougoussi, Bénin
The sacred forest of Affougoussi covers 0.17 km2 and is managed by the Daba, Kpantrossi and Sougou communities. Kpantrossi and Sougou are actually a cohabitation of two Baatonou communities namely: the Sougou and the Kpantrossi. It is believed that the deities ‘Sada’ (the female deity) and ‘Affougoussi’ (the male deity) have taken up residence in the sacred forest. Affougoussi is also the name given to the stream which runs through the forest. The deities are a source of belief which the entire Baatanou community find useful in all areas of socioeconomic and spiritual life. It was during the reign of King Daba Kontéré that the deities of the sacred forest were revealed. Since then, they have participated in the socio-cultural and religious life of the entire Baatonou community.
History and Activities
Initially, the sacred forest represented a place to worship the deities Sada and Affougoussi. Today, there is also interest in developing eco-responsible activities to limit the pressure of the populations on the forest, and to increase the authority of the members of the management committee. Currently, the sacred forest is threatened by extraction (e.g. hunting, mining, logging or fishing), conflict with other communities, and cultural change and/or loss of knowledge. However, the main problem is the gradual increase of agricultural settlers in and around the forest, which is impacting the natural resources. Support is needed to continue the current initiatives to strengthen local populations in developing eco-responsible activities.
Good forest conservation is considered necessary to provide comfortable shelter for the deities within the sacred forest, though there are a number of other activities that occur including beekeeping for the production and sale of bee products. The sacred forest of Affougoussi is a wooded savanna which supports a great diversity of species. For fauna, there are 11 known mammalian species, including the common warthog, oribi, common duiker and harnessed bushbuck. It is also home to 8 known bird species including the helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris). There are a number of reptile, amphibian, and invertebrate species, and a great floral diversity. Trees, shrubs, and undergrowth species have been identified including Isoberlinia doka, Gardenia spp., and Andropogon gayanus.
Management and Governance
The sacred forest of Affougoussi is communally managed by the delegated local management committee, under the Simplified Development and Management Plan (PAGS). This was developed within the framework of the Project for Integration of Sacred Forests into the Protected Areas System (PIFSAP). The community has full legal rights to resources, and everyone can use the authorised harvesting resources (medicinal plants, water, dead wood for non-commercial purposes.
A framework for community management of sacred forests in Benin, including the sacred forest of Affougoussi, was established by inter-ministerial decree in 2012. This gives the sacred forest recognition as an ICCA by the various local institutions (e.g. the Town Hall and Forest Inspectorate), which support the conservation actions. A decree that would grant legal recognition is currently in progress.
This case study was originally published by UNEP-WCMC in July 2021. The content was provided by the custodians of this ICCA. The ICCA has been self-declared and has been through a peer-review process to verify its status. More details on this process can be found here. The contents of this website do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of UN Environment Programme or WCMC.