The mention of monkey sanctuaries in Ghana, two popular names that come to mind is Boaben-Fiema in the Nkoranza area of Bono East and Tafi Atome in the Volta Regions. Apart from the above mentioned site, there is another monkey sanctuary at Duasidan near Dormaa-Ahenkro in the Bono Region, but it is not widely known.
Duasidan Monkey sanctuary has over centuries been a habitat of Mona monkeys in a tropical forest. The main fringe community-Duasidan is a farming community where the residents cultivate crops like cocoa, cashew, yam, maize, cocoyam and vegetables. The community is about 10 kilometres from Dormaa-Ahenkro. The distance between Sunyani and Dormaa-Ahenkro is 82.7 km (1 h 42 min drive).
The sacred forest which hosts the monkeys is about 46 acres, with many tree species like odum, wawa, framu, red wood and mahogany. According to history, a hunter by name, Nana Asiedu discovered the monkeys. They are believed to be precious assets of the land gods, and the people have coexisted with the animals since time and immemorial. Per the cultural belief of the community, anyone who will kill a monkey will also die.
Like many other sacred forests, the Duasidan Monkey sanctuary is virgin forest which does not only play host to Mona monkeys, it’s also an abode of different animal species. People are neither allowed to farm, hunt or visit the forest, thus making it a save heaven for games. Any intruder will incur the wrath of the gods. This has preserved the beautiful natural habitat for the monkeys.
Notwithstanding its potential, the site is yet to attract tourist as compared to Boaben-Fiema and Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuaries. Though there are no statistics to confirm the number people who patronize it, but it is obvious that tourists’ traffic there is nothing to write home about; occasional visitors are mostly students from schools in the erstwhile Brong-Ahafo Region and a handful of foreign tourists. Large majority of residents of Dormaa-Ahenkro have not even visited the Duasidan Monkey sanctuary which is just 10km away.
For now, accessibility is not a challenge because the road to the place is under construction and it is near completion. The biggest challenge has to do with poor promotion to sell the site to the world. Though it was officially inaugurated by the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) in September 2011, virtually nothing has been done by way of marketing and promotional strategies to give the site a competitive edge over others.
The Chief of Duasidan, Nana Oppong Kyekyeku Ababio, in an interview with B&FT said the community has for the past two decades been making unrelenting efforts to get the place developed to attract tourists but their attempts have not yielded the desired results. In anticipation of the increasing population of the monkeys, he said the community has decided to expand the sacred host forest by reclaiming adjoining farmlands. The community is targeting to open up the monkey sanctuary to about 100 acres.
The Chief revealed that the implementers of the Dedicated Grant Mechanism (DGM) for local communities project have agreed to support Duasidan to give a facelift to the tourist site. The objective of DGM project is strengthening knowledge and practices of targeted local communities in the select regions of the member country in REDD+ processes and sustainable forest management. He said the community among others has been assured of an administration office, a website, and social media handles to boost promotion of the site.
Nana Kyekyeku Ababio appealed to the powers that be help develop the Monkey Sanctuary. “Because we are find ourselves in a remote area, it will be refreshing to have at least a guest house here to accommodate tourists. We will welcome investors who will show interest in such venture. We also appeal to the GTA to step up its efforts in promoting the Monkey Sanctaury.”
One other challenge undermining the socioeconomic fabric of the village is poor access to telecommunication network. Due to the community’s proximity to Cote d’Ivoire, there is constant interruption by other networks in the neighbouring country.
With the desire of making tourism a leading contributor to GDP, it will be imperative to find innovative means to develop and promote ‘smaller’ tourist sites like the Duasidan Monkey Sanctuary. Also primary beneficiary of the site, it must be of interest to the Dormaa Central Municipal Assembly.