Taboos and ancient traditions help one community protect Kenya's forests

Mon Sep 5, 2016 9:11pm EDT
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By Shadrack Kavilu

LAIKIPIA, Kenya (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Deep within the Mukogodo forest in central Kenya, a community of traditional hunter gatherers are working with the government to help expand forests and crack down on illegal logging and poaching using ancient conservation techniques.

The Yiaaku are hailed a model of collaboration with authorities, using traditional knowledge to take care of tree and plant cover while adopting new livelihoods such as keeping bees and livestock to protect animals from hunting.

Kenya Forest Services Director, Emilio Mugo, said legislation to allow co-management of forests was introduced nearly a decade ago but the Yiaaku is the first successful community to do so, with hopes this approach can be replicated across Kenya.

"Where this community model is practiced we have seen cases of illegal logging reduce up to 50 percent," Mugo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Since we integrated the community's indigenous knowledge model of conserving forests into our forest policy .. there has been little friction or tensions with these forest dwellers."

The Kenya Forest Management Act of 2007 aimed to integrate communities into forest management but also led to the abolition of long-standing traditions such as hunting and logging for charcoal to maintain the forests and promote tourism.

It came ahead of Kenya setting a target to increase its forest cover to about 10 percent by 2030 from an estimated 7.2 percent, according to the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).