Napier Award Winner Taeya Boi-Doku ’24 Centers Afroecology in Gardening 

Pitzer alumni and staff stand with Taeya Boi-Doku ’24 in the center for a group photo at the Napier Award celebration ceremony.

Left to right: Danny Camarena ‘23, Professor Nigel Boyle, Director of Fellowships Noosha Malek, IGLAS administrator Suzan Greene, Taeya Boi-Doku ’24, President Strom C. Thacker, Isabel Thacker, Kenneth Butler ‘22, Bernie Hernandez ‘23, and Annie Voss ‘24.

A garden means much more than a plot of soil to Taeya Boi-Doku ’24. For her, gardens can be a site of Afroecology, indigenous knowledge, hands-on learning, and sustainable food growth. Now, Boi-Doku has received a 2024 Napier Initiative Award to develop her passion for these practices with like-minded organizations in Ghana. 

The award provides a stipend of $20,000 to implement her project, Reclaiming Afroecology: Indigenous Technology and Food Sovereignty. Boi-Doku plans to build four living library gardens—three at the Asaase Yaa Eco-Village and one on her own land in the greater Accra area. 

Integrating Ghanaian heritage into gardening and food 

Taeya Boi-Doku ’24 has shoulder-length black hair locs and wears brown hoop earrings and a blue and green top.
Taeya Boi-Doku ’24

“There are no publicly available locations dedicated to preserving indigenous foods, medicinal plants, and agricultural knowledge for Ghanaians,” said Boi-Doku. “I want all my gardens—or ‘living libraries’ as I call them—to be publicly accessible and partner with other organizations in the region working toward the same goals of re-indigenizing the Ghanaian food system and re-introducing indigenous agriculture practices and technologies.” 

Asaase Yaa’s mission is “to retrace and preserve the ancient indigenous wisdom and knowledge of self-sustainability.” The eco-village engages in organic farming, herbal medicine, pottery, and other indigenous artisanship. Boi-Doku has partnered with Asaase Yaa to build several gardens, expand their educational workshops, and help grow their following.  

“The eco-village prioritizes land and soil not as a commodity but as a food source and site of cultural history,” said Boi-Doku.  

It was important for Boi-Doku to find a project site headed by someone of Ghanaian descent. Asaase Yaa’s founder, Joshua Asiedu, has Ghanaian and Italian heritage. 

Boi-Doku is also partnering with Call To Nature Heirloom Seeds. As Ghana’s first heirloom seed production business, Call To Nature follows permaculture practices to develop sustainable agricultural ecosystems and end food instability. 

According to Boi-Doku, her time in Ghana is “dedicated to meeting with my partner organizations and expanding the project’s network, sourcing heirloom seeds, and building my knowledge of indigenous plants to better inform the design of these ecological spaces.” 

Sustainable food-growing in Claremont and abroad 

This is not the first time that Boi-Doku has taken her hands to the soil. 

“I discovered a love for vegetables after stewarding an urban garden in Philadelphia,” said Boi-Doku. “I knew I wanted to spend my time learning about agriculture and edible plants. This curiosity grew into a fascination with soil and sustainable food-growing practices.” 

As an environmental analysis major at Pitzer, Boi-Doku combined food and sustainability through several on-campus initiatives. Her roles included serving as a farmhand on the Pomona College Organic Farm, a steward of the Office of Black Student Affairs’ community garden, and a staff member at Pitzer’s student-run Grove House. 

Boi-Doku has also previously traveled internationally to cultivate her environmental interests. She studied abroad in Senegal to study the cultural impact of sea level rise, erosion, and the privatization of the city of Dakar’s coastline.  

She also spent her final semester in Costa Rica at Pitzer’s Firestone Restoration Ecology Field Station. In addition to cultural and language immersion, the Firestone Center features local collaborative resource management, human and tropical ecology, reforestation, and sustainable agriculture and permaculture. 

Boi-Doku considers all facets of ecosystems essential to regenerative agriculture and food production. 

“I hope to have a life spent bettering the biotic and abiotic communities around me through regenerative farming and collective gathering,” said Boi-Doku.  

Boi-Doku has also been awarded $10,000 by Projects for Peace for her ongoing work in Ghana. 

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