Tag Archives: community

Elderhood and the Mau Forest

Old growth trees in the Mau Forest

A Grove of old growth trees in the Mau Forest

Consider a mature growth East African Yellowood or cedar forest. Picture a grove of ancient trees in the midst of that forest. Those colossal trees are the crown jewels of the ecosystem. Not only do they, in their lofty presence, constitute evidence of a healthy forest community, they are also the principle factor in generating and maintaining the health of their biome.Those elder trees provide shelter and a stable environment of air, soil and water for the growth of other trees, bushes, flowers, and grasses and, consequently, food and home for a great variety of animal species. Similarly, elders act as unsurpassed preservers and nurturers, providing a stable environment in which people can grow and mature. Mature trees sustain their world – much the same way elders sustain our world.

Old growth trees in the Mau Forest

Indigenous trees in the Mau Forest

Elders play an essential role in engendering the healthy cultural environment for children, adolescents, and adults and in enabling those adults to one day become like themselves. Having returned to the source of their own innocence and wonder, elders celebrate these same qualities in children even more effectively than most parents can. Knowing the source of their true life in the mysteries, they recognize when an adolescent is ready to begin her own exploration of hidden dimensions and they help guide that essential journey.

A Grove of Old Growth Trees in the Mau

Mau Forest at Dawn

Elders [They] posses the wisdom and perspective that animates the big questions and that allows the long view from which they guide their human society in relationship to the greater world. In every human community, in every place and time, questions arise that are so big that no single elder (and no assembly of mere adults) can answer. With such  defining concerns their is no substitute for a council of elders. The council of elders must assure that the ventures of human society benefit the greater earth community. Never before has the guidance of true elders been more urgently needed than in these times.

Can you name a few genuine elders in your community. What vision have they passed on to you and the generations that will come after you…..

Have a visionary 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

Keeping the Faith in the Mau Forest

According to the “Good Book”, “faith” is defined as “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” As the environment has a direct bearing on poverty, health, biodiversity,  food security, the availability of water and the levels of conflict, it can be said that caring for the environment can create hope for a promising future, particularly for the poor.

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Faith leaders and community activists from Harlem show us how they mobilized the local community to fight for environmental justice. By carrying out an innovative ‘green’-mapping initiative, that identifies Harlem’s green resources and health hazards, this project been seen to empower people for community activism, reinvigorate community pride and ensure political accountability.

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On the other side of the tracks, Christian environmentalist Mathew Sleeth shares, what I think, is a compelling personal story and how this relates to this faith-driven environmental action in the YouTube video above.While not everybody may agree with his perspective, I think he raises some interesting points. The question that stands out for me is ‘What is the meaning of Life? And where does the environment fall into that pursuit of meaning?

Mau Forest at Dawn

Mau Forest at Dawn

The Mau Forest is undoubtedly the most crucial catchment area in Kenya directly affecting over 15 million people and biodiversity health in 8 ecosystems across the country. If one believes that the environmental degradation is a mirror of inner decay, then the restoration of the Mau Forest is a moral imperative. In other words, environmental justice can only be achieved with significant strides toward social justice and reconciliation in the region. I would think it is the mandate of Faith leaders, not only in  Kenya but across the globe,  to guide the process of healing the people so as to heal the land – and to guide in the process of healing the land so as to heal the people.

You shall not pollute the land in which you live….you shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell. (Numbers 35:33-34 NRSV)

Have a Faithful day,

Mukuria

Storm Brewing in the Mau Forest Tea Pot

The Mau Forest needs social justice just as much as environmental justice

Social justice is just as important as environmental justice in the Mau Forest

On December 8th 2009, the Kenya  police found what the Police Commissioner, Mathew Iteere, described as the largest consignment of weapons and military supplies to be found in civilian hands in Kenyan history. The ammunition was found at the residence of a Narok-based businessman, Mr. Munir Ishmael.

The weapons found at Mr.Ishmaels residence in Narok

The weapons found at Mr.Ishmael's residence in Narok

Other items found at Mr Ishmael’s residence were an unspecified amount of money, military machetes, military backpacks, shooting range ear plugs, military sleeping bags, foldable camping beds, solar batteries, heavy duty car batteries, solar camp showers, land rover spare parts, tyres, 70 water cans, military boots, knives, lubricants and NATO-approved military food rations. Either Mr. Ishmael is your more than average outdoorsman or he is being used as a ‘cover’ for a more elaborate plot.

The Police Commissioner was quoted as saying that the bullets found were sufficient enough to run the Nairobi Police station for 26 months or so. Keep in mind that Nairobi has a population of 3.5 million people.

The suspects of Kenyas largest civilian ammunitions find

The suspects of Kenya's largest civilian ammunition's find, Mr. Munir Ishmael and his wife Nahid Tabasum face charges in court

This ammunition find raises some interesting questions. Why was Mr. Ishmael freed on a cash bail, only to be found again with two large consignments of ammunition on February 1st 2010? Is Mr. Ishmael’s Islamic background being used as a ‘cover’ for an elaborate ethnically motivated plot to protect powerful interests in the Mau Forest? Word on the ground, indicates that these arms were meant for the Kalenjin community, in order to defend themselves against impending Mau Forest evictions.

The expansive wheat fields of East Mau

The expansive wheat fields of East Mau

If this is true, would the same apply to communities such as the Maasai and Gikuyu communities, which also have vested interests in the Mau, with large wheat farms, thus millions of shillings to lose if they were to face evictions?

Elderly women teargassed after holding a peaceful demo

These elderly women, who are Internally Displaced Persons from the 2007 post-election violence, were teargassed after holding a peaceful demo outside parliament.

Can you blame the Chepalungu MP, Mr. Isaac Ruto, for the emphatic defense of his ‘people’, the Kalenjin community, due to the perceived victimization, on the issue of Mau Forest evictions? Mr Ruto has been quoted as saying that “[his] people are ready to fight for their ‘rights’ and ‘people’ should tread very carefully on the Mau eviction and in particularly on the repossession of the Kiptagich Tea Factory.”

He is all too aware, that if  ‘his people’ are removed from the Mau Forest, they will be face the same fate as the Internally Displaced Persons, living in absolute poverty in tented camps, to be harassed at the whim of the government.

The Infamous Kiptagich Tea Factory in West Mau

The Infamous Kiptagich Tea Factory in West Mau

Evidently the Kiptagich Tea Factory is one of the backbones of the Kalenjin community, as the factory is said to provide employment to at least 10,000 people, both directly and indirectly. However, the fact remains, that the Factory lies on 1000 hectares, of what used to be Mau Forest, and has become the home to thousands, who call this area home.

In a 2004 essay, Glenn Albrecht coined the word ‘solastalgia‘, a combination of the Latin word salacium (comfort) and the Greek root algia (pain) which is defined as ” the pain experienced when there is a recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault….a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home”

As in George Orwell’s book ‘Animal Farm’,  the humanization of the two pigs in leadership, ‘Squealer’ and ‘Napoleon’ , led to a complete abuse power. As humans  are the only mammals that  have an insatiable appetite for what they don’t need, it is the pain of loss, experienced by the subjects of our power hungry leaders, who will bear the brunt of the conflict, to protect and reclaim, that piece of land they call home.

Have a positive day,

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