A Quick Guide to Osun Osogbo's Climate Crisis

How climate change in Nigeria is causing flooding and affecting cultural heritage in Osun State

Lagos Nigeria (2021-11-16) by CyArkCyArk

How does climate change affect Nigeria?

Nigeria has a tropical climate that alternates between a wet and a dry season which has diverse impacts on cultural heritage in the country. Within the country, there are several different climate regions that span between the northern and southern parts of the country. The main impact of climate change on Nigeria are climate region shifts brought on by changes in weather systems and precipitation.

Erosion in Northern Nigeria (2017-06-30) by Sani Ahmad UsmanCyArk

Desertification and droughts in the North...

Northern Nigeria is an arid steppe region with low precipitation and humidity. Climate change is predicted to reduce the precipitation even more in this region, causing the arid climate to move southward and cause increased aridity, desertification, and drought in these areas.

Osun Osogbo Nigeria (2021-11-11) by CyArkCyArk

...monsoons and flooding in the South

Southern Nigeria is a tropical monsoon region with higher levels of precipitation and humidity. Parts of this climate are expected to shift northwards, causing erosion and flooding in the South and other regions within Nigeria, including the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove.

Sculpture Osun River (2021-11-11) by CyArkCyArk

A forest sanctuary along the Osun River

The Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove is a forest sanctuary situated along the Osun River. This world heritage site is home to over forty shrines and sculptures erected in honor of Osun and other deities that are part of the Yoruba pantheon. 

Sculpture near Busanyin Shrine (2021-11-11) by CyArkCyArk

Flooding at Osun Osogbo

Because the Osun River is an essential aspect to the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove, many structures, worship points, and sculptures are located near the water. This includes the Busanyin Shrine which lies on the banks of the Osun River. As the intensity of the rains increase, these structures are at risk for damage caused by flooding and heavy rains.

Busanyin Shrine (2021-11-11) by CyArkCyArk

The Busanyin Shrine was damaged by flooding

Climate change threatens the Busanyin Shrine. Locals had reported that the shrine had been prone to flooding during the rainy season every few years, but in 2019 the shrine suffered severe damage from an exceptional flooding event. This loss has been devastating to the local community, which cannot use the shrine safely.

Flooding at Busanyin shrineCyArk

The roof collapsed on itself

Because of the flooding, the mud-based concrete that created the support pillars for the shrine weakened. This caused the weight of the roof to collapse on itself. This has prompted a flooding study and fundraising campaign for restoration.

Work at Busanyin (2021) by CyArkCyArk

Conserving and Restoring Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove

Along with local community groups and religious leaders, there are government agencies and conservation teams that have come together in order to help protect and preserve Osun Osogbo and the Busanyin shrine in the face of climate change.

Priestess collects water at Busanyin shrine (2021) by CyArkCyArk

The Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove is an important religious site for practitioners of the Yoruba religion. Local traditionalists and adherents from across the African diaspora visit the groves to engage in cultural practices. At Busanyin local priests have been  unable to use the site due to damage from the flooding.

Dr. Ijeoma adjusts the total station at Busanyin shrine (2021) by CyArkCyArk

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments is the Nigerian government agency that helps steward cultural heritage in Nigeria. The NCMM is actively engaged in helping to conserve and restore the Busanyin Shrine in Osun Osogbo after it sustained structural damage in 2019.

Restoration Team from the Adunni Olorisha Trust at the Busanyin shrine (2021-11-01) by CyArkCyArk

The Adunni Olorisha Trust-Adunni Osun Foundation (AOTF) are dedicated to help preserve and foster the artwork of the New Sacred Art Movement connected to Osun Osogbo. AOTF helps to protect Sacred Groves as living cultural heritage sites that enshrine the legacy of Yoruba heritage, art and culture.

Digital Documentation team at Busanyin ShrineCyArk

These three groups are working together to help preserve Osun Osogbo and the Busanyin Shrine. This includes restoration projects of various shrines, structures, and artworks affected by severe rains. These groups have also partnered with CyArk for an ongoing project to record, document, and help with restoration efforts at the Busanyin Shrine.

Busanyin Shrine Flood and Erosion Study (2022-07) by CDR EngineeringCyArk

These efforts have led to impactful work, such as a flooding study, that utilized the documentation of the site to help identify risks posed to the site and technical solutions to help preserve the cultural heritage.

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