Reforestation, Forest Conservation Can Minimize Displacement
For centuries, the aboriginal Sengwer people have lived, hunted and gathered in Embobut Forest, Elgeyo/Marakwet and parts of West Pokot counties in the Rift Valley. The forest and its surroundings offered them a perfect home. However, the government recently evicted them in efforts to restore the Cheranganyi watershed that is under threat following massive destruction of the forest. Already, most rivers that source water from the forest have dried up. Among them is Kerion, which feeds Lake Turkana, while Lake Kamanorok in Kerio Valley has been reduced to a grazing field.
The Sengwer claim the forest is their permanent home and some have defied Government’s order to relocate. Their defiance stems from the fear that if completely uprooted from the forest, the community might cease to exist, as it is known now. Their cousins, the Ogiek, were flashed out of Mau forest in 2008 as the Government embarked on a mission to reclaim the water tower. They have been assimilated by the Marakwets while Ogiek have been ‘swallowed up’ by Maasai and Kipsigis.
Both communities were purely hunters and gatherers spending all their time in the forest picking wild berries and other fruits as well as harvesting honey and hunting animals.
But this was reversed forcing them to grow crops and keep cattle like other communities, which joined them in the forest thereby influencing their culture and lifestyle. Mzee Antony Chemengich, a member of the Sengwer community, says Embobut forest is the only home knows. He has found food, shelter and clothing in the habitat since he was born 73 years ago.
“Where do we go if the Government wants us to get out of our homes,” asked the elderly man, who now lives under a tree after his house was burnt down by forest rangers. He says his forefathers were brought up and buried in the forest and if they are moved out, they would turn out to be refugees. Source: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/thecounties/article/2000103648/communities-face-extinction-after-forest-evictions
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