From December 9-10th the ICCA Committee in Kenya hosted a multi-stakeholder meeting in Ukunda along the Kenya coast. The objective of the meeting was to initiate discussions on the idea of ICCAs amongst a wide range of community members involved in local conservation initiatives. Participants of the meeting included representatives from conservancies, rangelands, Community Forest Associations (CFAs), Kayas (sacred forests) and Beach Management Units (BMUs) from all along the coastal region. As a member of the ICCA Committee in Kenya, Natural Justice was involved in the planning and coordination of the meeting.
Some key points raised during the discussions included:
- The linkages between the conservation work communities are already engaging in and the concept of ICCAs. As community members, do we identify as ICCAs? Is there any difference between ICCAs and the work we are already doing?
- Governance was determined to be a key point defining ICCAs. However, currently many communities might not have as much governance over their natural resources as they would like to. To this end, the idea of ICCAs as an aspirational term was brought forward. Not everyone here might embody perfectly all the characteristics of an ICCA right now, but these discussions provide a framework for communities to discuss, reflect and work towards certain objectives. Being an ICCA is a process. And it can empower communities to advocate for more governance. There is no ICCA that is absolutely self-governing as they are all subject to national law.
- There is a great need for documentation, such as mapping and surveys. This would be useful to capture and preserve traditional knowledge and histories, but also to provide communities with a baseline and evidence as they attempt to engage with policy and face more and more challenges.
Key challenges communities are facing:
|Bwana Sururu of Kaya Muhaka explaining the
medicinal properties of the tree behind him
- Lack of capacity – in terms of skills to understand and comment on EIAs or Bills, and resources to enforce decisions that they make regarding the management of their protected area. In addition, when communities do attempt to engage with EIAs or legislative processes, they face many other hurdles – the comment periods are too short, the NEMA office will be closed for long hours or it is impossible to get a copy of the document in question.
- Lack of transparent and consultative processes regarding the giving of permits or licenses (for example to fish, or harvest wood within a protected area), development or extractive projects, among others
- Poor enforcement of laws, often due to conflicts of interest – often representatives of the Fisheries Department or Forest Service do not support the community when complaints or requests are made. Later, communities have found that often there has been a conflict of interest as government officials also have commercial interests.
There were also presentations on the Kenya Forests Bill and Community Land Bill, both of which will greatly affect many of the communities present. The two-day meeting finished with a field visit to a local Kaya (sacred grove).