Kenya: Securing Ogiek ancestral lands, indigenous forests and livelihoods

The Ogiek people of the Chepkitale, Mt. Elgon, number some 5,000 people. In 2000, their presence on their own ancestral lands was made illegal. This same thing is occurring all across Kenya, forest communities are being evicted from their lands in the name of ‘conservation’. These evictions allow the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to take control of these lands and forests. In reality, KFS receive payments from farmers to enter, cut down, and severely degrade indigenous forest.

The destruction of the forests on Mt. Elgon not only causes greenhouse gas emmissions, but the degradation of the area’s ability to regulate the flow of water to the farmers in the densely populated lands below Mt Elgon. It also results in reduced availability of natural resources such as medicinal plants for the community, flowers for bees for their honey, pasture for their livestock and finally, security for elephants and other wildlife that inhabit the area.

The Ogiek have demonstrated that when the indigenous community controls the land, deforestation decreases as does charcoal burning and elephant poaching. The Ogiek therefore stand as a strong example of how securing indigenous peoples’ community tenure can secure the forests.

The insecure nature of the Ogiek’s predicament came sharply into focus when, having not faced evictions since 2008, the burning of their homes began in 2016.

Proven as the most effective forest guardians, this project aims to help the Ogiek gain legal rights for their lands and to strengthen dialogue between the Ogiek and external forces, including conservation agencies and the local government. The project also enables the community to implement laws and arrest those destroying the forest. Another key element of this project is to develop an education centre to aid the sharing of traditional knowledge which in turn strengthens social cohesion.

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Kenya: Securing Ogiek ancestral lands, indigenous forests and livelihoods

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Threats :

• Charcoal burning.
• Elephant poaching.
• ‘Shamba System’ of management resulting in shrinking forest.
• Being forcefully and violently removed from their lands.

Achievments :

• Key court case will recognise recognise Ogiek's rights to their land
• Proven reduction of deforestation and forest degradation
• Ogiek occupied territory acts as a safe place for elephants from poachers
• Ogiek community scouts have stopped almost all the charcoal burning
• A primary school now being permitted on community lands when they were previously forbidden
• Development of resource centre to transmit traditional knowledge (e.g. cultural and livelihood practises), additional to central curriculum
• Community is now being allowed to build a health clinic for the community
• Equipping and training community scouts has helped build stronger social cohesion