Supporting and Strengthening Communities in Marsabit County, Kenya

Aside from being one of the rockiest parts of East Africa, Marsabit County is the second largest county in Kenya, covering at least 15% of the country’s entire territory. Straddling along the boundary between Kenya and her northern neighbor Ethiopia, this county has over 14 different ethnic groups who call it home with sundry livelihoods: including pastoralists, fishermen, hunter-gatherers and small-scale agriculturalists. This large pocket of Kenya also embodies a most diverse landscape, from the ever foggy and freezing highlands formed from historically volcanic mountains near Marsabit Town to a much warmer low lying rugged terrain spanning thousands of square kilometers, and the world’s largest desert lake – the threatened UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lake Turkana.

From the 4th to the 11th of December, Shalom Ndiku and Achieng Orero, of Natural Justice’s Kenya office, partook in the Kalacha Cultural Food and Music Festival 2014 hosted by the Kivulini Trust. In addition to that, they also facilitated a Regional Workshop for the LAPSSET Community Forum (LCF) communities in Marsabit County through the able assistance of Golbo Integrated and the Heinrich Boll Foundation East and Horn of Africa’s Office.

The Kalacha Food and Cultural Festival 2014
The Kalacha Festival brought together thousands of individuals – community members, civil society actors, development partners and government representatives – who were all drawn to the rich, pristine and unique culture of the communities within Marsabit. Present were the larger pastoralist communities such as the Gabbra, Boran, Saakuyye, Somali, Rendille, Samburu and Turkana, and even the less represented expert blacksmiths the Konsos, the skilled hunter-gatherers such as the Waatas, and the multifaceted agro-pastoralist Burjis added much liveliness to the gathering.
The purpose of the festival, which was officially opened by the Governor of Marsabit County H.E. Ukur Yatani, sought to bring together these communities in order to avail an opportunity to promote their cultural heritage, social harmony and sustainable development. The event also showcased the region’s rich heritage through artistic works such as jewelry and sculptures, exhibition of local delicacies, and traditional technologies.

Dust rises from the ever-shuffling foot movements in this showcase
of an elaborate traditional dance by the Konso community members 
at the Kalacha Festival. (Courtesy Photo, Marsabit County Government)

Natural Justice gave a presentation on how communities can secure their communal land tenure by preparing for the eventual passing of the landmark community land laws in the next year and uniting their efforts towards achieving shared goals.
Interestingly enough, during one of the presentations, a community from Kinna in Isiolo County where Natural Justice has been supporting the local community’s efforts to develop a Bio-cultural Community Protocol (BCP) for a few years, delivered a very powerful presentation in the form of a poem, on BCPs in their community and the role they play to ensure that natural resources and delicate ecosystems are protected for future generations.
Natural Justice shall continue to support this flagship event by our partner, the Kivulini Trust, in order to ensure the continual preservation of the rich cultures and heritage within Marsabit and Northern Kenya.
Regional LAPSSET Community Forum Workshop
The LAPSSET Community Forum (LCF) is a coalition of community-based organizations (CBOs) located along the LAPSSET corridor, represented all the way from Lamu to the north in Turkana and Moyale, seeking to help communities affirm their rights and protect their livelihoods. LAPSSET was fully conceptualized in 2009, however, some prior projects, particularly the construction of the Isiolo-Moyale Road, had already commenced in 2006.
Natural Justice has been supporting the LCF since its inception, and in December, conducted two workshops in Marsabit and Moyale towns through the help of the LCF CBO representative in the county, Golbo Intergrated. The workshop sought to raise awareness on LAPSSET and its implications for communities in Marsabit County. The trainings sought to guide community members towards starting to think about the project in its entirety while also considering the specific components that would be within the county and nearby, and the potential changes it would bring to their ways of life. Community members were urged to hypothecate some of the scenarios to be envisioned with the commencement of the project, potential effects that this development would bring, the steps the community would take to curb negative effects, the potential rights likely to be impacted by LAPSSET, and a strategy going forward to raise their preparedness levels.
Major takeaways from the training included the fact that the Marsabit Town meeting had a high number of actively involved female participants while in Moyale the few youth that were present were vibrantly engaging. Additionally, a strong presence of local chiefs and elders present at both workshops committed to rallying community members to become more involved with the project in the near future.
One major accomplishment in Marsabit Town happened after the meeting. In attendance at the first workshop was a local radio presenter, Abdi Hassan, from one of the most popular radio stations in Northern Kenya, Star FM. For two hours between 7pm and 9pm, he led a lengthy and fruitful discussion in the local languages with community members from Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu and Turkana counties on LAPSSET and what it meant for local communities in these counties. 
Natural Justice’s Kenya Office endeavors to continue working with our LCF partners in Marsabit County in anticipation of LAPSSET as we head into the next year and aspire towards the goal of building capacity among communities along the corridor.

23 December 2014



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