1.         Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove (Nigeria) (C 1118)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2005

Criteria  (ii)(iii)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1118/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1999-1999)
Total amount approved: USD 10,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1118/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

October 2015: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1118/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017

In October 2015, an ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property (mission report available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1118/documents), at the request of the Committee.

On 21 November 2016, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at the above-mentioned web address, and provides an update on the state of conservation but does not refer directly to the detailed recommendations of the mission. The report includes the following:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

While welcoming the progress reported, the lack of details means that it is not readily possible to understand whether and how the detailed recommendations of the 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission have been addressed.

One of the main priority recommendations of the mission was the need for conservation work on the sculptures to be underpinned by a more carefully considered conservation methodology which addresses the philosophy behind the conservation and how it should carried out. Such an approach needs to be based on research into appropriate materials for shelter coats of the mud sculpture as an alternative to cement which cracks over time. These recommendations have so far not been responded to as no overall conservation approach is suggested and the materials set out include different colours of cement but no suggestion as to how a more flexible shelter coat might be developed. Thus, while the planned programme of conservation is to be welcomed, there is concern that this is being implemented without adequate guidance being put in place.

As the waters of the river flowing through the Grove are considered sacred and used by devotees during the annual Festival, the mission considered that it was essential that the water quality be monitored through laboratory analysis on a regular basis and, if the river was found to be polluted, visitors should be warned of the hazards of touching the water. Assurances that these recommendations have been carried out have not been provided.

Although the fact that 5% of the Festival income is now provided for conservation work, it is said that this is all spent on reversing the negative impacts of the Festival crowds. As the mission pointed out, the Sacred Grove is what attracts participants to the Festival and it is the conservation of the Grove that should benefit from its success. This means that an appropriate percentage of income should be allocated to support long-term conservation, not just reversing the impact of the Festival activities.

The recommendations of the mission to what was seen as an over-commercialization of the Festival, incompatible with its sacred status, were not addressed in the report. 

The mission acknowledged the need to document the complex three dimensional sculptures and set out recommendations for graphic, photographic and photogrammetric documentation that could be used for monitoring; details as to how this need has been addressed need to be provided.

In terms of regeneration of the sacred forest (to reverse former agricultural encroachment), the mission considered that knowledge of staff should be supplemented with advice from professional nature conservation specialists on appropriate methods for forest regeneration. This does not appear to have been followed.

Moreover, in its report, the mission stressed the need to undertake further revision of the Conservation Management Plan 2015-2019, including the Tourism Management Plan, by incorporating the detailed recommendations of the mission. It appears that this revision has not been carried out and it is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to undertake such an update as a matter of urgency.

Other recommendations of the mission that were not addressed in the report are those relating to community engagement, lack of resources for professional staff, inclusion of staff in Festival planning, fencing the buffer zone, and plans for a proposed new road and bridge.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.70

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.43, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Welcomes the progress made by the State Party in regard to the development of a conservation project for the sculptures;
  4. Recognizing the vulnerabilities of the property, as identified by the 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission, expresses its concern that the detailed recommendations of the mission were not specifically addressed in the submitted report and that no progress appears to have been made with significant mission recommendations relating to the development of defined conservation methodology, analysis of the polluted river water, over-commercialization of the Festival, support of the Festival for on-going conservation work, community engagement, lack of resources for professional staff, fencing the buffer zone and plans for a proposed new road and bridge;
  5. Considers that more clearly-defined progress is needed across a wide range of activities in order to put the management of the property onto a more sustainable basis;
  6. Urges the State Party to address, as a matter of urgency, the detailed recommendations of the mission, in particular the review of the Conservation Management Plan, with, if necessary, advice from ICOMOS, and to halt further conservation work until a conservation methodology has been developed and submitted to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  7. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019.