Yorubaland is home to the Yoruba, the largest ethnic group in southwest Nigeria. Use of indigenous plants for health and healing has been passed down from generation to generation of Yoruba. This ancient system is known as Ifa, the path of divination, and a practitioner is called babaláwo, father of ancient wisdom. Yoruba beliefs and culture are no longer confined to Yorubaland. Over 200 years ago, people from this region of West Africa were taken as slaves to the New World. Enduring untold hardships, they retained their physical strength and indomitable spirit through these traditional practices and incantations. In the Caribbean they gave rise to Santería, a new belief system that spread to the United States. Medicinal plants are still at the heart of these beliefs, preserving something of the West African rainforest in the urban jungle of American cities.
The Ethnobotanical Garden is beside the Botanical Nursery. It aims to:
- cultivate, propagate, and display plants of practical and cultural importance to the Yoruba
- increase awareness of native plants, their uses and conservation
- provide materials and information for training, education and research
- organise guided walks and hire of the garden for enjoyment of Yoruba plant heritage
The Ethnobotanical Garden was developed by the IITA Forest Project, funded by the Leventis Foundation 2010-2014. Further support was received in 2012 from Ibadan International School, which donated proceeds of a sponsored “mathbuster” challenge, and from the Kakofoni Arts Foundation which held a fund-raising “Reforestation Ball” at the Muson Centre, Lagos. The event was organised by Elder Chief (Mrs) Josephine Oboh-Macleod with support from Chief Norman Core MacLeod, media environmentalist Mr Desmond Majekodunmi, interior designer Mrs Zusi Ward, and fashion designer Mrs Osuare Egbuonu. Mr Festus Olumese was also a donor at this event.