The indegeneous people that coloured KICC and made it to Nairobi's 'Big Declaration'

Meet the indigenous people of Africa who did not disappoint the Continent and global visitors.

They showcased their presence through multifaceted activities bearing a confident stature that attracted many ACS and ACW dignitaries, revellers, participants, and visitors - They did this through an exhibition of art and culture, celebrating it through attire, demeanour such as hand-shake, bows, curtsies, among other appealing parades.

Who is indigenous?

According to IMPACT's Programme Officer Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, James Mema, and a participant at both ACS and ACW, some communities claim indigenous status in Africa today on grounds that their ancestors resisted the influence of massive waves of migration of Bantu-speaking agro-pastoralists from western to southern Africa beginning around 1000 BC.

"The argument for recognizing indigenous rights does not rest on historical precedence, and communities arising from the Bantu migrations, are just as African as everyone else," said Mema who is Maasai and considers himself an indigenous person.

The deal at the Summit was that among Africa's many indigenous peoples are the hunter-gatherer forest peoples ("pygmies") of central Africa, nomadic pastoralists Maasai and Samburu of East Africa, the San of Southern Africa, and the Amazigh people (Berbers) of North Africa and the Sahel.

According to a presenter at one side event, at the climate summit, the communities include hunter-gatherers such as Ogiek, Sengwer, Yaaku, Waata, and Sanya, while pastoralists include Endorois, Turkana, Maasai, Samburu, and others.

"Indigenous Peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live," said the Presenter.

He said those who identify with the indigenous movement are mainly pastoralists and hunter-gatherers, as well as some fisher peoples and small farming communities. Pastoralists are estimated to comprise 25% of the national population, while the most significant individual community of hunter-gatherers numbers approximately 79,000.

The road to the big win

Earlier, the African Indigenous Regional Steering Committee through its representative Ann Samante, stated their role in protecting critical ecosystems across the continent, making indigenous people actors in combating climate change.

President William Ruto rides the first Kenyan electric vehicle, Autopax, AirEv YETU, during the Africa Climate Summit. [PCS, Standard]

The statement further highlighted that Indigenous Peoples' livelihoods are based on their lands, territories, and natural resources and therefore they are among the hardest hit by the climate crisis despite being among the lowest emitters. Indigenous Peoples of Africa brought concerns and requests including, Renewable energy initiatives affecting their lands and territories. They argued that for them, there is no idle land. They use all their land for livelihood and cultural purposes. With regard to adaptation, Indigenous Peoples said they are victims who come with solutions.

An estimated 50 million Indigenous Peoples live in Africa and contribute with their knowledge. However, their knowledge and traditional adaptation resilience are not mainstreamed in local and regional policy frameworks. And that climate finance for adaptation and resilience, a recent study has shown that Indigenous Peoples receive less than 1% of climate finance globally.

During the summit and beyond, Indigenous Peoples requested effective and meaningful participation including the creation of an African Union focal point at the AU headquarters that will be handling their matters.

"The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) is supporting the advocacy of the Africa Indigenous Peoples Regional Steering Committee for the Africa Climate Summit through direct advocacy engagement as well as through enabling a number of Indigenous representatives from five countries of Africa to participate in the Summit," said Halima Ali.

Halima, Programme Coordinator, Isiolo Peace Link, an organisation that is at the forefront of pushing for the rights and well-being of the indigenous communities, especially those from North-Eastern Kenya, said she was so excited to see that their presence was acknowledged at both the ACS and ACW and the "Big Declaration".

"We participated in the summit because we are dedicated to advancing the cause of directing climate finance to frontline and indigenous communities for accelerated adaptation, resilience building, and the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient-green-blue development paradigm," said Halima.

Isiolo Peace Link, she said, focuses on environment conservation, and climate change, focusing mainly on the conservation of River Ewaso Ng'iro, a river that unifies and divides communities who depend on it for livelihood in equal measure, She said.

At the end of it all, the indigenous communities had the final laugh - they made it to the all-important document The Nairobi declaration at No 31, a clause that declared "supporting ..... local communities in the green economic transition given their key role in eco-systems stewardship".

This, according to long-time champion, and ambassador for indigenous communities and Founder of IMPACT, Mali ole Kaunga it was exciting and a big win for the indigenous people, a first step towards the recognition of this communities as significant contributors to addressing Climate Change.

Through a presentation, the champion told participants at the Climate summit that indigenous communities contribute very little in terms of pollution or global warming yet they are the ones being impacted severely by climate change - most have been displaced from their lands.

"It has been a long treacherous journey for African indigenous peoples to get to the agenda of climate justice and climate change discussions at national, sub-regional, and continental levels. Yet, most renewable and carbon offsets investments are targeting their land and resources," said ole Kaunga.

However, with the Big Win at the first-ever African Climate Summit and its parallel African Climate Week, The indigenous communities have rubber-stamped their importance by making it to the African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action.