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Indigenous people seek recognition in REDD+ activities

By Dauglas Mwanga

It has emerged that the indigenous people are now paying the double price for letting go their quest for conservation and preservation of their territories that were reserved for them as community property; and instead enticed for little amount of money.

  Each person has contributed to the pollution of environment deforestation and climate change differently regardless of his or her status, and whether he or she is an indigenous person or not. This emerged during the Indigenous and Local communities Dialogue and Lobbying with the Reduction of Emissions Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) process in Kenya forum recently.

Indigenous people at a round table discussion at Eastland Hotel. Photo/Mwanga

Indigenous people at a round table discussion at Eastland Hotel.

The forum organized by Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement Partners (ILEPA); and funded by Rosa Luxemburg Foundation East Africa took three days at Nairobi’s Eastland Hotel from 4th-6th June to focus on the implementation of the REDD+ process in Kenya which they termed as failure if the implementers cannot incorporate the local and indigenous communities that live around the forest and other affected areas.

 According to ILEPA Executive Director, Mr. Kimaren Ole Riamit, there is still hope that all the Agencies dealing with the REDD+ other components of climate change will finally come up with safeguards and help mitigate the carbon emissions which have threatened the indigenous forests.

Pastoralism was not left behind in this round-table as it emerged that if forests are not safeguarded, there is not going to be any pastoralism and there will be a crisis in meat production in Kenya since these communities are the ones supplying cows to Kenya Meat Commission.

Rosa Luxemburg Foundation East Africa Programme manager Joan Leon, addressing participants in one of the cessions

Rosa Luxemburg Foundation East Africa Programme manager Joan Leon, addressing participants in one of the cessions

The forum drew its participants from all the affected and marginalized communities in Kenya again raised the red alarm over the increasing destruction of indigenous forests for other activities. Among the major issues that were discussed are the impacts brought about by carbon emissions and destruction of forests, and Community land which is now losing ground slowly.

Deforestation accounts for 15 to 20 percent of all the carbon emissions hence there is a need for local people to work hard towards helping in the mitigation process. Additionally, forest carbon can potentially play a major role in climate change mitigations.

The participants also felt that cutting down indigenous trees to replace them with plantations doesn’t add value compared to natural forests. They cited recent cases of human wildlife conflict as witnessed in various parts of the country where wild animals clash with these communities. Several Lions have been killed in Ngong, Maasai mara and other national parks. Also some animals are hunted down either for their skin and other parts or for meet.

According to Kanyinge Sena, The Chair UN permanent forum on Indigenous People, the climate change discussions are meant to involve the local communities and indigenous people because they are the once affected directly by the deforestation and environment pollution.

The indigenous and local communities have discovered that they are the key stakeholders in the implementation of the REDD+ process. This will go a long way in alleviating environment pollution and Carbon production which threatens even the eco systems and even wildlife at large.

Mr. Kanyinge also pointed that the affected parties don’t read all the policies that have been passed at the UN level hence they don’t have a clear understanding of what to do. Policies are also difficult to implement because the implementation frame works are very poor.

The forum also found that the country proposes systems on REDD+ process don’t work due to bureaucracy and dishonesty involving stakeholders at various levels over the funds that are meant to drive the process. Interestingly, the Indigenous people argues that it’s not all about Land rights but rather using the land to earn a decent living without necessarily destructing the natural resources.

UN Agencies such as World Bank, African Development Bank and UNEP are also ready to work with the indigenous people through funding their projects that are aimed at implementing the REDD+ process locally. Different Community Forests Associations have also come together to advocate for community forests and indigenous trees conservation.

Many Stakeholders who represented various parts of the country such as Narok, Kajiado, Turkana, Marsabit, Mt. Elgon, Baringo, Tana Delta, and Malindi expressed their dissatisfaction with the way in which Indigenous forests are cut down as charcoal business booms in the country. Rosa Luxemburg Foundation was also fully represented by its Programs officer Joan Leon from Tanzania.

It should be noted that Kenya is still far from achieving the REDD+ plus policies given that Timber used in Kenya is derived from tree forests. Indigenous people now want to be upfront for SESA implementation. As it is, Charcoal business should be regulated so that there can be clear rules on how it should be done without necessarily cutting down indigenous trees.

In a nutshell, the forum came up with a resolution that there should be clear safeguards on the indigenous forests because these indigenous trees are used by traditional herbalists as medicine, and also play a very important role in promoting Tradition, Culture, Education and Health. If Local indigenous people and local communities and other stake holders are not coped in the REDD+ process, there is fear that the goal of this process can and will never be achieved and we risk losing our indigenous livelihoods. We remain vulnerable to harsh climate change conditions such as prolonged droughts and long rains which indeed will affect our livelihoods. Lest we forget.

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