Forest Guardian Appeal
The Naimina Enkiyio, “forest of the lost child”, is sacred to its Maasai custodians and cloaks the eight and a half thousand-foot Loita/Nguruman escarpment perched on the edge of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. This rugged watershed to the East feeds the parched plains of the Rift and to the West it sustains the Sand River and the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem. The forest is a haven for Elephant, other wildlife and livestock during times of drought.
The Maasai who are traditionally pastoralists have a great deal of respect for their Forest. It is rich in medicinal herbs and plants which are an irreplaceable resource for them and their Laibon (Maasai spiritual leaders.) In more recent years these communities, out of necessity, have adopted a more agricultural lifestyle resulting in their communal rangelands shrinking into a carved up slash-and-burn landscape of smallholdings. Accompanying this trend is a National land adjudication policy pushing towards private land ownership that is in the process of sharing out this communal land into small individual titles.
The Forest and its surroundings have been split into five separate adjudication sections. The communities resident within the Morijo adjudication section drew up plans suggesting how their land could be equitably subdivided whilst conserving their cultural and pastoral way of life and keeping the Forest intact as a secure communal asset. Unfortunately their ideas have fallen on deaf ears and the adjudication process is being fast tracked regardless of the communities’ wishes.
The Morijo communities have taken a class action case against the Government Land Adjudication Committee steering this process as they have contravened both the Land Adjudication Act and their constitutional rights. They are requesting the process be started afresh, in accordance with the law, with community participation. The communities so far have largely funded all their legal costs from their forest tourism earnings. They have appointed a respected lawyer with experience in land matters and have sought a second opinion from the Katiba Institute who are helping with community workshops on their constitutional rights.
At this stage they have won an injunction pending their case being heard. They have asked if we as a community of friends could help with finding further funding to put towards fighting their case. They will also need assistance with the legal structuring and implementation of their preferred adjudication plan which will require community participation with many meetings and public discussions.
Initially we are looking at raising approximately $US 30,000 for the court case and a further $US 300,000 needed for structuring and implementing the communities preferred “Three Shamba” adjudication plan. This is not needed as lump sum and every little bit counts towards the final goal of securing their land in manner suited to the Maa culture that has safeguarded the Forest for centuries. The Three Shamba Plan ensures the equitable subdivision of the land in a way that gives security of tenure and forms a foundation upon which future conservation initiatives and sustainable community development can be securely built.