Elgeyo Marakwet County Integrates Indigenous Communities In Forest Conservation And Management For Community Ownership And Sustainability.

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Indigenous forests continue to be depleted because of human settlement or activity, including farming, charcoal burning, timber harvesting and herding. This has worsened the climatic conditions in those areas with cracks appearing along the escarpment. Elgeyo Marakwet County realized the missing link in sustainable forest conservation is the non-integration of indigenous principles and practices of maintaining forests and the environment to mitigate the adverse weather experienced during the dry seasons.

In the olden days, community members could not farm near and/or along the river banks, and those who did so would suffer the wrath of the wazees (elders). The river would dry and their crops would fail. After appeasing the wazees, the rivers would once again flow with water. Today, farmers till the land up to the river banks, and apply chemical fertilizers/insecticides which are washed into the river by rain or irrigation. Domestic use of this water causes the lifestyle diseases pandemic (e.g. cancer) being witnessed today. It is important to listen to the sages and integrate indigenous knowledge (IK) into the scientific knowledge of climate adaptation. The wazees sought to live a righteous and God-fearing life, earning them a long healthy life. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting the County’s indigenous communities, including the Sengwer, Kiptani, Ogiek, Cherangany to harness and practice IK to dialogue with Indigenous communities and integrate IK in planning.

The Elgeyo Marakwet County Sustainable Forest Management & Tree Growing Bill & Policy created a Conservation Council which comprises 12 members, including 2 from the indigenous communities and the rest from other dominant communities. The wazees in 4 sub-counties in a meeting with the Governor advised that community members should decide on their development priorities through public participation with County Government guidance on technical know-how and implementation through the Ward Development Committees which include community members. The County Government has acknowledged citizen conservation groups. This arrangement will ensure community ownership and sustainability
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