Press release: An appeal to the Government of Kenya from CLAN (Community Land Action Now)

By Natural Justice

“A win-win solution for forests, human rights and the EU WaTER Project exists – please grasp it!”

The European Union and the Government of Kenya are set to make a decision within days whether to lift the suspension on the Water Towers Project or to cancel it altogether. However a win-win solution is on the table, which can protect the forest as well as allow a safe home for forest dwellers.

This is good news for all Kenyans – not just for forest dwellers – because it lays the ground for a secure, strong and enduring partnership between the Government and forest dwellers to protect Kenya’s forests, wildlife and water towers for the benefit of all Kenyans, for always.

CLAN is a network of communities – including forest dwellers, hunter-gatherers and pastoralists – who have joined together to speak with one voice about our communities’ land rights. This includes the right to be the chief conservators of our lands and forests, and to be able at last to look to Government as our technical advisers and allies, not our persecutors.

Our forest communities have had to stand by and watch their forests destroyed in the name of conservation. This has been In the wrong way of conservation – the old, colonial, way – which ignored the very people who can offer most to save a forest because they have most need of protecting it, not just for today, but forever.Without the forest, their culture will die – without these cultures, the forests will die.

We ask the Government to not force the EU to cancel its WaTER project. It is not just the EU that will withdraw its support on witnessing the abuse of human rights through the pursuit of outdated colonial-style conservation strategies – other donors will turn their back on Kenya too if this continues, and other countries will benefit instead.

We urge the Government of Kenya to instead grasp the win-win solution in front of them: to begin a process which allows Kenya’s forest dwellers to live in agreed glades and other such areas like moorlands where trees do not naturally grow. From there they can be on site to perform for our nation as proud protectors of their forests. We ask the Government to join hands with these citizens before it is too late to save those forests. We ask the Government to not turn its back on this modern way of saving forests

We ask for community land title for the Ogiek of Mau. We ask for Kapkok glade to be recognised as community lands for the Sengwer of Embobut. We ask for Chepkitale moorland to be recognised as community lands for the Ogiek of Mt Elgon. Forest dwellers should be allowed to live peacefully and sustainably in agreed areas such as glades, moorlands and other such areas within their ancestral lands where trees do not grow naturally.

Many forest peoples globally are recognized today as owner-custodians of precious forests, because they have more incentive than anyone else to save their historical forestlands. Kenyans should know, for example, that it is almost only the territories of forest peoples in Brazil that are not being turned into ranches and soy bean farms today. These forest custodians fight day and night to stop fires coming into their lands.

Now the Cabinet Secretary to the Ministry of Environment, Keriako Tobiko, is rightly trying to turn the clock back, to clear the forests of settlers and encroachers who were sold the lands of forest people by corrupt officials and politicians. But he needs to do this with, not against, the traditional owners who wait patiently to be able to live safely in their homes, along with agreements as to how they will work hand-in-hand with the Government to protect and rehabilitate their ancestral forests. Without the right to live anywhere in these homelands, they can do little to protect the forest. Conservation is about working with citizens who can best help save those forests – and the time to grasp this opportunity is now.


CLAN is a network of communities – including forest dwellers, hunter-gatherers and pastoralists – who have joined together to speak with one voice about our communities’ land rights.

NB: The indigenous Sengwer community of Embobut forest wrote a letter to the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Kenya asking for the envoy’s intervention to lift the EU funds after the government of Kenya allows Sengwer to live in Kapkok glade. You can download the letter here.

24 September 2020


Conservation, Environmental Defenders



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