The environment is seen as having a religious dimension that extends beyond its physical outlook in Africa. Many African societies revere the earth and its resources and treat it as sacrosanct. This may issue from their profound sense of appreciation for the several services made by the environment and its resources in their everyday life activities. To the African, a higher spirit is always responsible for any good deed that’s extended to him/her. Thus, when s/he freely gets help to cater for his/her greatest needs of life like food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and recreation among others, s/he attaches spiritual value to its suppliers that are the environment and its resources.
The Africans don’t worship the surroundings as they would worship the maximum spirit who’s in the apex of the belief systems, the Supreme Deity. But they treat the environment and its resources with deep awe and respect. They believe it is the Supreme Deity that has given these natural things from the environment as habitats for some soul beings s/he sent as messengers to assist the human family in their dire situations. This belief is often known as Animism. In terms of great storms, the forests function as wind holders to protect them from the anger of the storms. The leaves, stem, barks, and roots provide them with medicine to cure their ailments while the fruits provide them food. After the performance of rituals and appeasing the spirits believed to be dwelling in the trees, a number of them are fell and used for architectural and other utilitarian products. To the indigenous African, the products and services offered him/her by the plants, rivers and other things from the environment are the handiworks of the spirit residing in them. Therefore, it would be improper, or even an act of disrespect and lack of appreciation to wantonly destroy these terrific resources which have served them and pivoted their lifetime existence.
Out of terrific appreciation, they treat the earth and its natural resources with the greatest care and gentility. The rivers and water bodies aren’t defiled in any way whether by bathing in them, tainting its purity with menstruation blood, drowning someone dead in it, urinating or defecating in them or even using poisonous chemicals to fish in them. The water bodies have been seen as having souls residing in them and these spirits will be incensed and vouch their anger about culprits of those environmental malfeasances. This indirectly maintains the purity of the river bodies and the sustainable supply of its anthropogenic and environmental services. The rich abundance of biodiversity and their conservation in most areas in Africa is as a result of the religiosity perspective of the environment by the indigenous African.
What is the way forward with this sacrosanct view of the surroundings? Due to the influx of Western religion and schooling as well as globalization, many Africans that are affected by these external factors, especially the youth, have dulled the elevated sense of spiritual values for the environment. This is adversely affecting the sustainability and conservation of the natural resources in the environment. However, in local communities where this religiosity view of the environment is still high, the biodiversity resources are still intact and in their pristine state. This is largely because of the stringent sanctioning measures imposed by the traditional councils in the local communities comprising of the ruling chief and his cabinet of elders. Hence, the environmental agencies and ministries in Africa must permit the traditional councils to function in full abilities to apply these cultural beliefs that protect the environment. They can achieve so by setting a legislation to beef up their powers to sanction offenders who engage in environmentally friendly activities that are seen as defying the sanctity and purity of the environment. Also, assistance in terms of logistics to preserve and propagate this belief in animism must be provided to help in the upkeep of the buoyancy of their environment and its essential resources.