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Mau Forest 

Ogiek People


Hectares: 273,000


Mau forest defender Leonard Mindore is planting dombeya trees to bring back wild bees and wild hives to Mau Forest in Kenya.

Leonard and his son reforesting Mau

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Dark Rainforest Path

Who are the Ogiek?







The Ogiek which literally means the “Caretaker of all wild flora and fauna” are the indigenous people of Mau Forest in Eastern Kenya. We are traditional honey gatherers, who survive mainly on wild fruits & roots, hunting wild game and collecting wild honey. Our symbiotic relationship with the forests is the result of many years of interacting and living in Mau. Forests are our home and provider of everything from food to shelter.


The Ogiek have a unique way of life well adapted to the forest. Our adaptation and traditions have made us successful foresters and greater environmentalists. The survival of Mau Forest is inextricably linked with the survival of the Ogiek.


Why is Mau Forest so important?

The Mau forest is home to endangered mammals like the yellow-backed duiker (Cephalophus sylvicultor) and the African golden cat (Felis aurata). There are numerous other animals, like the giant forest hog, gazelle, buffalo, leopard, hyena, antelope, monkey and small animals like the African genet, tree hyrax and honey badger.

The vegetation cover varies from shrubs to thick impenetrable bamboo forest. There are big numbers of native trees like cedar (Juniperus procera), African olive (Olea africana), and Dombeya spp. suitable for wild bee colonies.

Why do we care for wild bees?

Honey is very important in the lives of Ogiek people. It is a source of food and medicine as well as a measure of wealth. It is brewed to make honey wine, which is a median for very important cultural practices like initiation, dowry payments and cleansing. The higher the number of hives is an indication of one’s wealth and this calls for reciprocating role of forest protection to ensure long term sustainability of hives. 

Dombeya trees produce the best quality pollen and nectar that results in clear and white sweet honey, mainly used for food and brewing. Maraisit trees produce medicinal honey, which is dark in colour with bears a strong aroma. This honey is also brewed and mixed with herbs to make strong medicines.

As a preservative, Bush Meat and Siwot or wild vegetables (Urtica urens) is laced with honey to ensure its use for long periods of drought, which is our main strategy to ensure food security.

It is thus safe to say that Mau forest ecosystem survival is heavily dependent the Ogiek honey culture in the sense that, a well conserved Mau ,full of Dombeya trees is an assured flow of  high quality and quantity of honey for the Ogiek people. It is also against Ogiek traditional culture to cut down a tree that houses a hive on it. Anyone found to have committed such an act is cursed. This taboo thus assures every tree that supports a colony of bees is preserved forever.


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