The European Union has rejected calls by communities living in forests to stop a multi-billion shilling rehabilitation project.
The EU, in a partnership with the Kenyan Government, is funding a rehabilitation programme of the Cherangany and Mt Elgon water towers that cover 11 counties.
But members of the Sengwer, Ogiek, Sabaot, Cherangany, and Marakwet communities have protested against the Sh3.6 billion project planned for the next six years, saying it would lead to their eviction from their ancestral land.
“We are indigenous forest dwellers and we cannot be forcefully removed from our homes and this programme should be stopped forthwith,” said Yator Kiptum, a representative of the Sengwer community, during a consultation meeting held at an Eldoret hotel.
The communities accused the union of infringing on their rights and threatened to petition the EU headquarters in Brussels on the matter if their demands were not met.
“What we need is more structured dialogue and proper compensation and review of the Forest Act, which does not recognise the indigenous communities living in the forests,” said Mr Kiptum.
Speaking at the consultation meeting, the EU head of delegation, Stefano Dejak, said the programme would be called off only as a last resort and advised the affected communities and the Government to resolve the conflict.
“It is important to reconcile the two objectives of the programme and our work is to support it. What we need is a scenario where the environment is conserved and the rights of the indigenous communities living in the forest are secured,” he said.