Starving Boni people in Lamu forced to live on wild fruits

Well-wishers donate food to locals in Kiangwe in Lamu East. 

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

Over 3,000 Boni minority community members in Lamu's Boni forest are staring at starvation following an acute shortage of food.

The Boni are found in seven villages of Milimani, Basuba, Mangai, Mararani, Kiangwe, Pandanguo and Madina, all situated inside the dense Boni forest.

The Nation visited most of the villages this week and found that lack of food has forced most of the Boni people to live on wild fruits.

The Boni are traditionally a forest community who have for decades relied on hunting, gathering and honey harvesting for survival with the Boni forest being their main source of food.

Children at Kiangwe Village in Boni forest in Lamu East receiving donations from well-wishers.

Photo credit: Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

'Linda Boni'

Since the launch of the multi-agency security operation ''Linda Boni'' in 2015, which is being conducted inside the Boni forest and neighbouring areas in a bid to flush out al-Shabaab militants, said to be hiding deep within, the community has been banned from setting foot in the forest.

This prompted them to try out farming after their only source of livelihood was cut short.

Musa Abatika, a resident of Mangai, said that for the past six years that they have embraced farming, the activity has not done well and their crops have always been invaded by pests and wild animals.

"Hunger is biting us. We harvested very little this year and we've eaten everything. We have nothing to eat. We're now forced to rely on wild fruits gathered from forests to feed our families. The government should do something," said Mr Abatika.

Hamisi Tenee, a resident of Pandanguo, told the Nation that despite their effort to grow crops, they lost everything after floods swept away all their plants.

Mr Tenee said wild animals, particularly monkeys and baboons, have also been a headache to them.

He appealed for food aid from the government and well-wishers.

"Not a single person has harvested anything here. We now have to spend hours in the forests and bushes so that we can feed our families. But, still, that's not enough. We still go to bed hungry and wake up the same way. It's  painful to live like that. We need urgent help," said Mer Tenee.

Mr Ali Sharuti, who is the Boni Community spokesperson, said the community was initially being supplied with relief food from the State and non-governmental organisations after the Linda Boni Operation was launched.

Mr Sharuti asked why the aid is no longer reaching them.

"The government failed to honour its promise to supply the Boni with food and other humanitarian needs for as long as the operation lasts. We are living in God's mercy. No one is assisting us any more. Let the government  attend to us," said Mr Sharuti.

Mrs Fatuma Delo said her children now risk suffering from illnesses related to poor dieting.

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