Ogiek gives face to Kenyan Forest
"Removing a community inside the forest, is like removing fish from the water", Wilson Memusi,Ogiek Elder,Kenya
|Ogiek people in Kenya is engaged in forest restauration task Force|
The Ogiek peoples, forest peoples of Kenya- are found in Kenya in the Mau region approximately 150KM from Nairobi the capital of Kenya. The Mau forest is one of the biggest montae forest in east Africa and one of the water supplies of Kenya and the Ogiek peoples ancestral home.
Forest degradation , role of government and sustainable management:
In the late 1990s until 2007, forest was degraded due to encroachment by other communities for settlement, agriculture expansion and over logging. This impacted on the water supply and affected the Ogiek peoples whose livelihood depended on the forest.
The government of Kenya realized this situation and set up a taskforce in 2008 for the conservation of the Mau Forest since it was threatening water security and biodiversity. The Ogiek peoples were evicted and after advocacy the government set up taskforce comprising of the Ogiek peoples.
|Wilson Memusi: said “removing this community inside the forest is like removing a fish inside water” , it will not survive.|
Together with other Ogiek youth, Saaya founded the Ogiek Peoples Empowerment project , an organization to empower themselves to be self-sufficient through advocating for Ogeik peoples rights, improving livelihoods, undertaking economic empowerment initiatives and forest rehabilitation and conservation. The community manages the forest sustainably using their traditional practice and customary use. They depended on the forest for hunting and honey, which was their main staple. The youth and women started a bee keeping project which is culturally significant for the community since honey was an important product.
Education and development of enterprises
Through training by partners they have been able to form an association that makes contributions to the project , acquired equipment’s and know how on processing and packaging and selling of honey and other products such as candles, royal jelly’s, medicines, honey bags etc.
The youth have also been training Ogiek children on their culture and values, as well as rehabilitating the forest with indigenous tree species and educating community at large on the importance of forest conservation.
The role of IAITPTF and challenges faced by Ogiek peoples:
International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests (IAITPTF), a global network of indigenous peoples organizations advocating for indigenous peoples rights to their lands, territories and forest, provides access to advocacy platforms that the indigenous communities can advocate for their rights at national, regional and international levels as well as network with other indigenous peoples from other regions. They have also been advocating for forest and family farms in areas where community land has been titled under private ownership.
For instance, in 2015 and 2016 it has engaged the representative in participating in regional forestry forum and human rights forum.
However, even with the successes in improving their livelihood and advocating for their rights to their ancestral home, the community still faces challenges regarding the forest, and need to create more awareness about impacts of deforestation and to highlight the role of forest peoples in sustainable management of forests. More support is needed in accessing markets for their bee keeping enterprise as well in exploring other forest based livelihood opportunities like from bamboo which is found in their forest. The government needs to acknowledge the Ogiek peoples as protectors of forest and enjoin them as co-managers and resource their local institutions. They need capacity building and to secure rights to their lands and territories.
Wilson Memusi who is a Council of elder in this community once said that “removing this community inside the forest is like removing a fish inside water” , it will not survive.