Home Is Where the Forest Is
By Saburi Chirimi, April 19, 2016
In the forested area of Chepkitale, Mt. Elgon, live the last remaining forest dwellers of Kenya, whose way of life is threatened with extinction. After centuries of caring for the forest, the Ogiek find themselves once again trespassers on their own land. A served eviction notice would forcibly remove them from their home, which has been designated a national game reserve.
Their story is not unique. It is repeated throughout the forests of Africa, Latin America and Asia.
For millions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, the problem of insecure land rights represents a global crisis. They risk losing their lands and livelihoods, undermining humanity’s ability to confront climate change, food insecurity, poverty and political instability, and to protect the diversity of life.
Although there has been progress in many countries, commitments to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities often remain empty promises. Forest, water, rangeland and mineral resources continue to be the primary target of rapidly expanding investments and short-sighted “development” projects that displace Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
For now, the Ogiek are still living in the forest, and they have vowed not to leave. But at the hands of governments and corporations that operate with impunity, their future—and the future of millions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities globally—remains uncertain.