Human Rights for Safeguarding the Marginalized Communities and Minority Groups
Ogiek Community : Mau Forest Complex is the home of the largest group of forest dwellers, the Ogiek. Since time immemorial, the Ogiek people have been living inside the Mau forest and depending on it for subsistence and shelter. Traditionally, the Ogiek managed the forest in clan and family line territories that run from the densely forested highlands to the sparsely forested and warm lowlnads. In these transect, they would practise a trashumans practice of migration and resources utilization following the seasonal availability of resources and evading extreme weather patterns that could endanger their health, especially for the young children and asthmatics.
The community has experienced historical land injustices, inferred by Article 67 (e) of CoK, 2010, committed by colonial and past government regimes. The community’s ancestral lands within the Mau Forest Complex were initially expropriated from the community and appropriated to the crown by the imperialists by way of forest gazettement. The community was subjected to assimilative mechanisms into the dominant members of the wider Kenya society. Nevertheless, their cultural identity persisted though they lost a reasonable proportion of their hunter-gatherering practices due to enactment of legislation that criminalized the practice.
When an opportunity to settle the community arose through degazettement of portions of their ancestral territories within the Mau Forest Complex, they were never satisfactorily settled as the exercises was marred with irregular and illegal land allocations to non-Ogieks. The community has fought these injustices through the Kenya Court systems and has filed a total of seven court cases, most of which have been dismissed.
In the recent past, the government, after realizing the wanton destruction of Mau Forest Complex and the need to restore the ecosystem, engaged the community in discussion mechanisms for addressing their land tenure issues. The community has undertaken several initiatives including mapping of their ancestal territories within the Mau Forest Complex, restructuring their traditional governance system and, in collaboration with the government, have registered and screened the bona fide members of the community for consideration of addressing their land issues.
Mt. Elgon Forest is one of Kenya’s water towers as well as home to the Mt. Elgon Ogiek indigenous community. Like the Ogiek of the Mau Forest, the Mt. Elgon Ogiek community has been struggling to gain recognition as the rightful owners of the Mt. Elgon Forest which is their ancestral land. With the assistance of ERMIS Africa the Mt. Elgon Ogiek are mapping their ancestral territories and the natural resources thereof and will use this spatial information to support their claims and advocate for their ancestral rights as well as for intergenerational passage of traditional knowledge
Cherangany Hills Forest is one of Kenya’s water towers and also home to an indigenous forest dwelling community known as the Sengwer. It is also a source of a number of rivers that drain to Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana. The Sengwer – referred to as Cherangany or Dorobo are traditionally forest dwellers and their lifestyle is characterized by hunting, gathering and beekeeping.
The community live in Kapolet, Kipteeperr, Kerer, Kaisingor,Torapket, Chemurgoi, Sogotio, Lelan, Kipkunur and Kapkanyar natural forests. Sengwer traditional governance is made of sub-tribes , clans , totems , and orkoi . Each sub-tribe had their own portion of the ancestral territory whose boundaries are marked by rivers, hills, trees and other natural features. The sub-tribe territories covered the plains of Kapchepkoilel and highlands of Cherangany Hills. That means each of them had a portion of soi the plains and mosop the forests which forms the Cherangany Hills. Hunting, gathering and bee-keeping was well coordinated. It was illegal for a member of one sub-tribe to either hunt or gather or harvest honey or fetch herbs in another sub-tribes territory.
ERMIS Africa helped the community develop a participatory 3D model of their ancestral territories, indicating all the natural resources thereof and the ancestral boundaries as well. The P3D model was designed for the purposes of intergenerational passage of traditional knowledge as well as for advocacy for cultural rights to land and the forest resources. ERMIS has also undertaken activities to empower the community and educate them on their rights as well as policy and legal issues concerning the forests.
Yiaku Community: Mukogodo Forest is a natural forest located in semi-arid areas of Laikipia County. The land covers an estimated area of 30000 acres. The Yiaku, an Eastern Cushites, represent the second wave of cushitic immigration into the Rift Valley area of East Africa. The Yiaku has claimed to have lived in Mukogodo forest from time immemorial, living as cave dwellers and practicing a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The Yiaku community is composed of four distinct clans who include Orondi, Lossos, Luno and Sialo. .
The clans are further divided into family lineages where
(i) Orondi clan has
(c) Matunge and
(ii) Sialo clan has
(c) Moile and
(d) Nantiri family lineages;
(iii) Luno clan has 2 families
(a) Liba and
(b) Len-Nkilelenyi; and
(iv) Losos clan 3 families
(b) Napei, and
(c) Lol kinyanyi.
The origin of these families differs within and across the clans. .
The Yiaku practise a rich culture that is embedded in the forest landscape. Using traditional ecological knowledge, the community has derived their livelihood from the Mukogodo Forest for generationss. However, the emergence of unfamiliar extreme climate variability and climate change has weakened the community’s resilience against drought. This, coupled with criminalization of hunting and restriction of gathering of forest products from the forest – before the enactment of Forest Act 2005, has crippled the endogenous economy of the community forcing them to rely on relief food and other economic handouts. .
The Yiaku have claimed to suffer from historical land injustices and therefore are in a socio-economic and political marginal status. They have indicated to have been treated with contempt by neighboring communities who refer them as as Iltoroboni (poor and primitive forest-dweller without cattle), dispossession of territories by the colonial government and inherently by the post-independence governments, destruction of the natural forest through corrupt concessions, lack of social facilities and amenities, among others.
The Arabuko Sokoke Forest is considered to be one of the most important sites for nature conservation in East Africa. It is the last large remnant of lowland coastal tropical forests in East Africa covering an area of 420 square kilometers and provides a unique and important habitat for a number of endangered birds,insects and mammals. .
ERMIS Africa’s GISEEM project plans to venture to the coastal region and bring on board Waatha indigenous community that lives in the Arabuko Sokoke Forest. In November 2010, ERMIS Africa with logistical support from KEFRI Gede station held a stakeholders workshop with Waatha representatives and other stakeholders. The aim of the workshop was to bring the Waatha community representatives to sit together and expose to ERMIS Africa their lifestyle and any issues or challenges affecting the community. The workshop was also a platform for stakeholders carrying out conservation work in the coastal forest and interacting with the Waatha community to exchange ideas of how best they could work together to promote the indigenous community rights and interests. .
The expansion of the GISEEM project to the coast is to build upon what has already been done by other actors in conservation by empowering the indigenous community of Waatha and educating them on policy/legal issues as well as their rights as an indigenous forest dwelling /dependant community. The project will also document the history of the Waatha community, their Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and eventually map their ancestral territories.
The Karima community lives around the Karima Forest located on the slopes of Aberdares around Othaya. The land under the forest measures about 265 acres. During the colonial era in mid-1950 a part of the Karima forest was burnt down to flush out the freedom fighters, the ‘Mau Mau’. Later deforested areas were converted into a forest plantation which marked the genesis of alienation of Karima community from the customary ownership and traditional use and management of Karima forest territory.
During the colonial government, a land consolidation and amalgamation program was initiated which led to privatization and titling of land. The elders of Karima community decided, against the colonial decree, to uphold the will of their forefathers that they made on their deathbed that the community should perpetually preserve Karima Forest. Following the enactment a new Forest Act in 2005, which sought to involve local communities in forest management through a joint agreement with the government, Karima community saw an opportunity to be involved in the management of Karima Forest. .
In a bid to prove customary ownership of the forest, the community sought to document their oral history about their origin, historical occupancy and collective attachment to the Karima Forest. Through GISEEM (GIS Enhanced Ecological Mapping for Improved Governance and Management of Natural Resources), the Karima community has documented the oral history of their origin, mapped their ancestral territories including cultural and natural landscape elements and traditional ecological calendar (eco-calendar) within and outside the forest. .
This provides the community with an opportunity of accessing technical advice on sustainable management of their forest from the government agencies such as KFS, noting its community mini forest, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) due to the numerous wildlife present in the forest, and the National Museums of Kenya due to the cultural and ecological richness of forest ecological forest