of the Mau Forest Campaign
The situation in rural villages in Southern Kenya is critical, given the forced displacement of Ogiek communities by the Kenyan government. The authorities have embarked on illegal land grabbing, all to sell the ancestral forests of the Ogiek to carbon offsetting firms!
We would like to thank all the private donors who helped us raise £10,000 via the Rapid Response Fund (Environmental Funders Network). Thanks to the support of individual donors, and in collaboration with the Program for the Heritage of Ogiek and Mother Earth (Pro-Home), Guardians have started a campaign to support affected communities in Nakuru, as well as land defenders who are fighting against this illegal eviction.
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We will be meeting a council of local Ogiek community leaders soon, to identify needs, demands and priorities.In the meantime, we are supporting the Mindore family, who manage a Dombeya tree nursery near Nakuru. Dombeya is a keystone tree for the Ogiek, as it is favoured by bees. The Ogiek's entire traditional worldview relies on beekeeping and honey. Because of climate change, populations of bees have collapsed.
GWW/Pro-Home is committed to saving the existing Dombeya nursery, which we need to relocate and fence off. We will also establish a new Dombeya nursery with members of the community to secure livelihood and the population of pollinators.
We need all the help we can get, so please donate now:
Make sure you specify that you are donating to the Guardians of Mau Forest Campaign!
Who are the Ogiek?
Ogiek means “caretaker of all wild flora and fauna”. The Ogiek people are the indigenous guardians of Mau Forest in western Kenya. Ogiek people are traditional honey gatherers who survive mainly on wild fruits & roots, hunting wild game and collecting wild honey. Their symbiotic relationship with the forests is the result of many hundreds of years spent living in Mau. Forests are seen by the Ogiek as a home and a provider of food, medicine and shelter. Ogiek adaptation and traditions have made these people successful foresters and greater environmentalists. The survival of Mau Forest is inextricably linked to the survival of the Ogiek.
Traditional Ogiek community in Mau. Photo by Leonard Mindore. Map of land use in Mau before the start of forced evictions in November 2023
Why is Mau Forest so important?
Mau Forest is the most important of Kenya’s five ‘water towers’, so called because of the role this mountain forest plays in the catchment, storage and natural purification of water. The mountains and forest of Mau are source of many of Kenya's southern rivers, and the source of drinking water to millions of people.
Mau is also home to a rich biodiversity, including species that are endemic amd can only be found in the montane forests of eastern Africa. Many endangered mammals live in Mau including the yellow-backed duiker (Cephalophus sylvicultor) and the African golden cat (Felis aurata). There are numerous other iconic species of animals in this unique ecosystem, such as the giant forest hog, the gazelle, the buffalo, the leopard, the hyena, the antelope and small animals like the African genet, the tree hyrax and the honey badger.
Vegetation cover varies from shrubs to thick impenetrable forest. There is a large number of native trees in Mau including the Kenyan Cedar (Juniperus procera), African Olive (Olea africana), and Dombeya, which is especially suitable for wild bee colonies.
Dombeya tree in the wild, Dombeya tree nursery near Nakuru and building a tree refuge for wild bee hives. Photos: Leonard Mindore
Why do we have such a deep connection with 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.