Community offers ‘win-win’ proposal to save forests

Members of the Sengwer community, who live in Embobut Forest, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, march through Nairobi streets in protest against their evictions.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Communities living in forests and environmental activists want a change in the conservation strategy.

The indigenous communities want to be involved in conservation plans. They have called for community forests to be established through the Community Land Act as a sustainable and cheaper way to rehabilitate the forests.

“The forests are intact where most of these indigenous communities live. We want to use the forest in a sustainable way,” said Peter Kitelo, a member of the Ogiek living in Mt Elgon, that is part of Cherangany water source.

A row has been brewing over forest conservation, resulting in the suspension of a Sh3.6 billion EU-funded rehabilitation project following the killing of a member of Sengwer community allegedly during a forcible eviction. “The communities should be supported to own and manage these forests,” said Kitelo.

Maryama Farah, a representative from Natural Justice, said in Tanzania, over 3.4 million hectares have been gazetted as community forest land since the 90s and 400,000 hectares  in  2010.

Emily Kinama from Katiba Institute spoke of the laws that guaranteed the right to shelter for the indigenous communities in the Constitution.

“Forcible evictions have never worked and will never work. It is important to ensure the land rights of the indigenous communities are protected. There is no evidence provided that local indigenous communities have destroyed forests,” she said.


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