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Kaya elders in bid to protect sacred forests

By By Joseph Masha | September 17th 2012

By Joseph Masha

Kaya elders have raised concerns over the destruction of Kaya forests and have now vowed to take a leading role in conserving the shrines.

The elders said the increasing population has led to encroachment into the gazzetted forests holding the cultures and traditions of the Mijikenda community.

Kaya elders said the most endangered forests are those in Kwale where influential personalities have been targeting the shrines for grabbing.

The elders led by Gabriel Garero, the Kaya Mudzi Muvia elder in Rabai, have now taken up the duty of patrolling the shrines to safeguard them from intruders.

“Kaya elders from the Kauma, Rabai and Duruma communities were taken for training on the conservation of the forests, most of us are fully prepared to conserve our scared forests,” said Garero.

The elders said their resolve to protect the sacred forest had come after the Government, through the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture, organised training for the elders on how they can conserve the cultures and traditions of the Mijikenda by conserving the shrines.

The conversation and protection of the sacred forests was also supported by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), which offered funds for capacity building.

Honey farming

To sustain their work, the ministry and Unesco also provided the elders with beehives to start honey farming to enable them get something to sustain themselves. 

But the elders complained that due to their old age they need support from the Government in getting security agents to protect the forests.

They also complained of hunger facing most of the elders and challenged the Government to support them with relief food.

Last week, the elders celebrated the completion of the first phase of the Kaya forest conservation where ministry of National Heritage and Culture permanent secretary Jacob Mairon and director Gladys Gatheru attended the function.

Ms Gatheru said the first phase of the forest conservation programme by the Kaya elders cost Sh3.4 million from the Government and Unesco.

Dr Mairon raised concern that the identity of the Mijikenda community was on the verge of collapsing following the massive destruction of the Kaya forests.

The PS said the most threatened sacred forests were those in Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu counties.

He said the government would look into the possibility of getting funds to fence off the shrines. He warned that the Government would repossess illegally acquired land.

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