Category Archives: community

Business as Usual in the Mau Forest

Powerful landowners in the Ngongori area of the Mau Forest have organized attacks on the Ogiek in order to expand their wheat fields. The Ogiek are the last Indigenous forest dwelling community in Kenya, with the Mau Forest being their ancestral land. The attacks began last week when most of the men were attending a funeral some distance away. These premeditated attacks were carried out by hired thugs and plain clothes policemen. Some Ogiek homes were burnt to the ground while other homes were destroyed by chainsaws and machetes.

The issue of Mau Forest evictions is both sensitive and complex, however, this recent spate of enforced evictions comes at a time when the government had given their word that the Ogiek community will not face evictions.

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This is not the first time the Ogiek , many of whom do not have an official title to their land but who have lived there for generations, have been forcefully evicted from the Mau Forest. The first forceful evictions of the Ogiek was between 1908 and 1914 following the signing of a pact between the Maasai and the colonial authorities. Further evictions of the Ogiek  followed in 1918, 1926, 1927,1932, 1954, 1958, 1977,1987, 1993,1997, 2001, and 2007 and the most recent in April 2010.

An Ogiek woman contemplates in front of her demolished house

An Ogiek woman contemplates in front of her demolished house on April 8th 2010

In the 1990’s the Government implemented a disastrous land scheme that saw large tracts of land sold off to corrupt officials. The current government is trying to rectify this mistake by implementing what seems to be a lethargic and lopsided reforestation project. Lethargic because the government has allocated inadequate resources to implement what needs to be a dynamic community driven initiative, lopsided because the project is exclusive rather then inclusive, involving communities that can push powerful business and political interests.

The Ogiek need to be included in the Mau Forest restoration process, however, as they have never received title deeds they may be penalized for living in a forest that has been to a large extent destroyed by others. In my view, the survival of the Mau Forest is inextricably linked to the survival of the Ogiek.

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Without political representation, the Ogiek community continues to be undermined. However, there are those who are willing to create the space for the Ogiek to be heard and to be included in the restoration of the their heritage, the Mau Forest.

Have a determined day

Mukuria

A Tribute to the Mau Forest

One Generation plants the seeds another generation gets the shade‘  African Proverb

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The first clip attempts to capture what I feel and believe about this beautiful land that is Kenya. In making the theme song for REFUGE (Restoring Forests for Future Generations), I brought together the images taken by my partner Megan, the voice of the talented Neema Ntalel and the editorial work of my good friend Allan Alligula.

The second clip was a promo for the first and only Mau Forest Eco-Festival held on August 22nd 2009 at the Mavuno Dome and organized by Teenz Konnekt, the teens ministry of Mavuno Church (http://www.mavunochurch.org/new/)and REFUGE. The purpose of the event was to galvanize the youth toward meeting the challenge of restoring the Mau Forest. The event ran from 2pm-10pm and brought together some of Kenya’s finest artists. Check out the pictures below from the afternoons event, ”The Mr and Miss ‘G’ Teen’.

Teen Pastor Grace and Executive Pastor Linda announce the 'G' Teen  winners

Pastor Grace (on the left) the pastor of the Teenz Konnekt announces the winners of Mr and Miss ‘G’ Teen as Pastor Linda Ocholla, an executive pastor at Mavuno Church looks on.

An estatic Miss 'G' Teen celebrates her win as Mr 'G' Teen looks on

An estatic Miss 'G' Teen celebrates her win as Mr 'G' Teen looks on

Hip hop Gospel musician Juliani does what he does best

Hip hop Gospel musician Juliani does what he does best

A dynamic Dance troupe does there thing

A dynamic Dance troupe does there thing

The dynamic MOG gets the teens worked up

The dynamic MOG gets the teens worked up

The Alabaster Dance troupe ignites the afternoon

The Alabaster Dance troupe ignites the afternoon

The judges for the Mr and Miss 'G' Teen event getting down

The judges for the Mr and Miss 'G' Teen event getting down

Acrobats add some dazzle to the Mr and Miss G teen event

Acrobats add some dazzle to the Mr and Miss 'G' teen event

There was something for the kids as well

There was something for the kids as well

The energetic Hellen Mtawali of Afrizo captivates

The energetic Hellen Mtawali of Afrizo captivates

The eclectic and electric Jua Kali drummers

The eclectic and electric Jua Kali drummers

The event also acted a the launch for REFUGE, a community based organization geared toward the restoration of the Mau Forest. This ambitious projects seeks to introduce beekeeping as a tool of Participatory Forest Management in order to address chronic issues of poverty and invariably human-forest conflict in the region. I’ll keep you posted over the next few weeks on our progress.

Setting up shade netting for the Indigenous seed nursery

Assisting Mr Kilaaya Saaya to setup shade netting for the Indigenous seed nursery on the periphery of the Mau Forest

To all the eco-centric people out there..press on for the sake of our future generations.

Mukuria

Mau Forest Rising

Mau Forest Sunrise

A Mau Forest sunrise:Deep within the Forest is a sacred tree called ‘Lowisto’. The Ogiek diviners use the seeds of this tree to gain knowledge from the ancestors in order to keep the community at peace with each other and the Forest.

Sunrise over the Mau Forest

According to a study by Costanza (1997) the ‘price’ of services by the environment such as pollination,photosynthesis, CO2 removal would cost USD $33 trillion per year. The total for the global economy at the time was USD $18 trillion.

Dawn in the Mau Forest

Dawn in the Mau Forest. An Ogiek healer can name over 3000 plants with medicinal properties. This ‘living pharmacy’ may hold the cure to diseases that cost thousands of shillings to treat. 75% of all medicine on the planet is from a herbal extract.

Dawn in the Mau Forest

Dawn mist in the Mau Forest. The rythm of the Forest is cyclical rather than linear. One begins to understand this when we see how a tree makes oxygen, distills water, fixes nitrogen, makes complex sugars in food, creates a habitat for hundreds of species, absorbs carbon dioxide, absorbs solar energy. As we get in ‘sync’ with nature we promote a healthy a healthy consciousness of becoming, which is centered on interconnectedness.

Dawn Mist over the Mau Forest

Dawn in the Mau Forest: The Ogiek have the Amerindian equivalent of Ayahuasca called ‘rotiik’. This psychoactive decoction allows you to ‘see’

Dawn Mist in the Mau Forest

Money buys off our heritage- The Mau Forest

The Mau Forest continues to be destroyed. KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) have been given the mandate to protect the forest. On 31/12/09, 40 kms from a KWS camp, a farmer continues the onslaught on the forest.

I hope to make this a Decade of Restoration, where we made a difference for the future generations and for all the 160 million Africans who depend on the survival of the forest.

I hope you have a Decade of Restoration too,

Mukuria

Negotiating with the Mau Forest

The District Commisioner of Narok South Mr Ahmed Omar Ahmed addressing the peoples on Dec 17th 2009, Naisoya

The Chairman of the Interim coordinating secretariat on the Mau Forest, Mr Noor Hassan Noor, on the left, assures the peoples, during a tree planting initiative on December 17th 2009 in Naisoya, that the Mau Forest issue is under control. (Naisoya is approx. 220kms from Nairobi ) The CEO of Kenya Breweries (with arms crossed) looks on.  According to an article in the Daily Nation in July 2007, UNEP donated USD 1.3 million to a reforestation project. This project involved restoring degraded tracts of the forest, particularly in East Mau Forest. The article indicated that Mr. Ahmed, the District Commissioner for Narok South, was to lead the initiative. Locals in East Mau claim the project did indeed take off, but with an emphasis on exotic seedlings to reforest the Mau. If this is indeed true, the restoration of the Mau Forest presents itself as a complex issue.

The CEO’s arrived in style to plant their ceremonial seedling

The CEOs arrived in style to plant their ceremonial seedling for the tree planting ceremony in Naisoya. The one day initiative drew a good number corporates, such as Kenya Breweries, Equity Bank, KWS, DHL, Nation Media Group and the Green Belt Movement. The aim was to plant 15,000 seedlings in this section of the East Mau, the Maasai Mau.

The turnout was impressive. Locals mingle with the Nairobians to learn how to plant trees in their backyard

The turnout was impressive, with 500 people attending the initiative, at least 350 were cooperate staff members. The local community mingles with Nairobians’  as they learn how to plant a tree in their own backyard. The local community remained largely uninvolved in the tree-planting exercise as this is not a community based initiative The only way to break the vicious cycle between the community and environment is to provide opportunities to the community such as these.

Mukuria trying to resuscitate a dying seedling

Unfortunately, close to 30% of the seedlings that the corporates provided were dead or dying. Here, I try to resuscitate a dying seedling in the parched ground. It looked like Kenya Forestry Service saved on a good chunk of money buying tiny malnourished seedlings that will probably grow slightly bigger than a shrub. If we want to restore an indigenous forest, we need strong seedlings that will grow into large tree.

The Best seedlings were kept to the senior officials

A handful of robust indigenous seedlings were kept aside for the 5 or so dignitaries.

Once the cameras were switched off the cooperate world disappeared back to the comfort of Nairobi

If members of the local community were given a chance to speak at the event, the day would have turned out very differently. As the communities in the vicinity of the tree planting exercise face the daily struggle of putting food on their plates,the views of the community take precedence over the grand speeches of the dignitaries.

Narok after the flood of 24/12/09

Seven days later, Narok town, 60 kms from East Mau Forest, experienced the worst flooding event in its history. Above, a bulldozer clears the layers of topsoil from the main street at 10 am on 27/12/09. The locals say that dramatic deforestation in the higher surrounding areas resulted in the worst flooding event in Narok history. Narok is 170 kms North West of Nairobi and 50 kms from the Mau Forest. 1 person died in the 30 minute flash flood.

Famine in Narok

Two weeks prior to the floods, Narok town had experienced it’s worst drought in decades. It had not rained in 3 years. As a result 25,000 heads of cattle had died, while 130,000 people faced starvation.

In 2004, a 300 page Ngung’u Report on the irregular and illegally acquired land was released.The report read like a role call of who is who in past political power. The report claimed 200,000 title deeds were illegally created in the last 40 years. The report stated explicitly the substance of land issues in the Mau, one of which being tea farms of Mr. Moi on the western side of the Mau Forest. Since the release of the report Mr. Moi has made millions of shillings. 5 years later civil society activists are up in arms about the issue,with the Prime Minister leading the environmental charge. This is a ridiculously long time to react to facts that have been on paper for half a decade. If we want to solve the issues of the Mau Forest, we must dig very deep and uproot the system that nurtures and rewards greed.

Have a good one,

Mukuria