The Ogiek community — the original residents of the Mau Forest Complex — on Tuesday said it was ready to offer its traditional conservation knowledge to save the Mau.
Addressing the Press in Nakuru after a long closed-door meeting with the new Rift Valley provincial commissioner, Mr Osman Warfa, over the Mau saga, Ogiek leaders said the community was ready to help the government conserve the forest.
The leaders said hundreds of hectares were degazetted in the name of settling the community, yet only a small fraction of them had title deeds.
One of the leaders, Mr Joseph Towett, said the community knew the right tree species to plant in the now depleted water catchment area.
“We have lived in Mau for centuries, and we ensured it was well conserved. We are ready to offer our traditional conservation knowledge for the sake of rehabilitating the forest,” he said.
Mr Towett, who was accompanied by leaders from all the Ogiek clans, said the leaders knew all the forest boundaries before the 1990 to 2001 excision and were ready to help the government.
“We know the boundaries that would not affect the catchment area, and we are ready to help identify and review them. We will help the State in fixing new boundaries,” he said.
Mr Towett said the delegation of leaders had gone to see the PC and seek government’s stand on the Mau. He said the Ogiek had been complaining about the activities in Mau since 1995, but those in authority ignored the matter.
“We have documents to prove that we starting raising the issue long before anyone even noticed that there was a problem There are newspaper cuttings, correspondences with the government, court and parliamentary records,” he said, adding that the proposals by the Task Force on Mau Forest were not exhaustive and should be subjected to further debate before being implemented.
Mr Towett said the government should review the Ogiek settlement issue and compensate the community for the destruction of their natural habitat.
He said while the intention of excising a small part of the forest was noble for the resettlement of the community which had been living there, politicians took the advantage to grab thousands upon thousands of hectares of forest land, leaving the Ogiek landless.
The Ogiek leaders were drawn from Koibatek, Narok, Kipkelion, Nandi South, Kuresoi, Molo, Njoro, Kericho and Uasin Gishu. The vast Mau Forest, which has 22 blocks, extends to all these districts.