Native Tree Nursery

Peter Donaldson, a Graduate Student from The University of Arizona’s Online Graduate Programs in Human Rights Practice, met Rashid Iddrisu (Wari) in Barcelona Spain in 2019 and got interested in all of the agricultural projects that “Wari” was doing.

And so he visited Sawla with his wife, Magdalena. Both have strong agricultural career backgrounds.  The visit to Savannah region was to decide on a capstone project for Peter's M.A. in Human Rights Practice.

Peter and Rashid with seedling ready for transplanting

They had a great visit, and after seeing the deforestation issues in Savannah Region, decided that Peter would begin a native tree nursery on WIACT/CEHDA grounds in Sawla.  From that nursery, tree seedlings would be provided to K-12 schools across Savannah region for replanting by school children.

Unfortunately, Coronavirus has delayed his return to Ghana but the friends he made while there built the nursery. The plot was staked, fenced, cleared and plowed with Peter’s supervision from afar, seeds collected, and seven species have germinated and are growing.  Meanwhile, Peter and anthropologist Mette Brogden interviewed Gonjas by Zoom about traditional uses for the trees.  They made fact sheets for students to refine and use to interview other regional tribal members for their traditional uses:  this is a work-in-progress that will be shared as curricula with schools in Savannah Region where native tree seedlings are being planted, and that will build native tree nurseries onsite so that children grow with the trees and learn about their natural heritage.

Peter returned to Ghana in April 2021 to oversee the start of replanting of seedlings to schools and other places, with the help of local chiefs, school officials, and kids.  The plan to to reforest Savannah Region with native tree species, the first of which are shown and described, below.


Preparing the native tree nursery
Sawla, Apr-June, 2020

Boys from Sawla planting seeds into recycled clean water plastics that kids collected from Sawla streets
Boys from Sawla planting seeds into recycled clean water plastics that kids collected from Sawla streets
Meeting with school teachers in April 2021 to explain the project and begin transplanting seedlings
Meeting with school teachers in April 2021 to explain the project and begin transplanting seedlings

Dawa Dawa Tree


About Dawa Dawa tree:  This tree is well known for the smell that the paste from the seeds produces. If you have dawa dawa in your house, you may have a problem with rats. The paste used in soups and sauces may need to be stored outside of the house. The fleshy part covering the seed that is not yellow can be mixed with dirt to form a cement like substance for use as the floor in traditional houses. Most of the tree has traditional uses but also is used as a shade tree. The long stems that are attached to the red ball are used by the children in games to tickle one another.

[Rashid Iddrisu, 6.20.2020 interview via zoom]

Engaging kids, volunteers, school teachers, and women in growing and transplanting trees, June 2020-May 2021



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About Rosewood tree:  This tree has been exploited by foreign interests due to the value of the wood. It is not found now near roads or towns due to the extensive logging. Wood has been used for beams in the roofs of houses due to the strength of the wood. Leaves are used in traditional medicine.  The seed is called the rabbit show.



More info coming soon!  This is the fruit...

The white part is what is eaten, and the black seed is used in the k'waribi [awari] game.



About the Cotton tree:  This tree is vital for funeral procession of the Yagbonwura. Wood used in the procession must come from Kaklia trees on the grounds of the Traditional Palace at Nyaηε. This makes tree propagation and planting on this location urgent. The seeds are very important to make an oily sauce for new mothers to aid in milk production and return strength to the mother. The fibers are used for cushions. The wicks for lanterns are made from the cotton and used in combination with shea oil. Traditionally clothes were made from the fibers of the tree.


BAOBAB TREE Kalar yi (Kalar dibi)

“Sogle” [Sawla—a village in Savannah region]  The first person who settled in that area settled under the baobab tree, so “sogle” means “under the baba tree.”  K’ fruma [kuka] soup is made with the dried leaf of the baba, and the soup is called K’ fruma.  It means something that falls on your body while you eat because it is a bit starchy and you drip it on you accidentally.  “Spread on me” is what k’ fruma means.  “Earth gets on you.”

[Rashid Iddrisu, 5.13.2020 interview via zoom]

About the Baobab tree:  If you are leaving your family to resettle with a new wife, your father will give you materials to plant in your next area. The K' lara seed is one of these.  Hunters also take the fruit with them to eat and then plant the seeds if they will be hunting in an area for a long time or regularly.

Normally you find them in the old settlement areas…it lives around humans because people would plant it when they were moving around or settling somewhere. Thus it mostly lives in neighborhoods and old settlements.  It does not permit big trees to come under it, so you do not often find it in forests.  When you do find it in the forest, often it was because there was a settlement or farm or a hunter living there long ago.  People who migrated brought the seed with them, and then they planted it because the tree shelters you from the rain.


Bees always make honey in these trees if the tree is outside of the town center because the bark and tree trunk itself are soft, and there are little breakages that enable bees to establish a nest.  Bees are always around baobabs.  The tree makes holes and gives a space to them.