Guardians of the land

Trees are the most noticeable elements in the savanna country of northern Ghana. But the growing population and the need for farmland led to a drastic decline of the tree population. With devastating consequences: there are no more trees for natural protection. The local river of Guabuliga village has dried up each year. Since 2012, in cooperation with several institutes and the local villagers, the Austrian lab [applied] Foreign Affairs (‘[a]FA”) has been working to implement measures for sustainable village growth together with local residents.

The planners refrained from dictating solutions from above, instead they proceeded cautiously: in a study project,[a]FA worked out a step by step, multi-layered growth agenda to be accompanied by several individual student projects. The basis for the agenda were talks and discussions with the local villagers, in particular about their relationship to trees. The main project had started in 2011, it continues until today.

In the mapping project “Talking Trees”, [a]FA used art to explore the relationship of the people to their trees – with stories about the local trees that the villagers have passed only orally from one generation to generation. Accompanied by additional mapping projects discussing further topics such as water, vernacular architecture and social innovations in a traditional setting, the result was an exhibition. The exhibition became the basis of a discussion between the villagers and the planners before they travelled to the capital Accra in 2012 and then to Vienna.

With the mappings [a]FA developed the two essential elements of the growth agenda: the name of the village, Guabuliga, recalls the place where it was founded, a waterhole close to an acacia tree. And there is no private land ownership in the village; properties are not fenced in.

Read the complete text with more background information in topos 103.