Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) has established a Bio-cultural Community Protocol (BCP) for the Ogiek Community living in the Mau Forest Complex which provides a systematic framework for engagement of the community in natural resource management.
The protocol clearly communicates the community-determined values,procedures and priorities, and sets out community’s rights and responsibilities under customary, state and international law.
It comprehensively looks at the complexity of social, cultural and economic values of the Ogiek people in correlation to protecting their heritage and the Mau Forest Complex.
In translation,Ogiek means ‘caretaker of all’ plants and animals and the community have known
Mau Forest Complex rich in biodiversity as their ancestral home.
The community has a phenomenon history of practising hunting and gathering but things have changed and management of the forest resources has taken a different lane interrupting the communty’s way of life.
But the strong attachment Ogiek community has with the forests has never dwindled, forests are precious resources to them and they highly attach cultural values and beliefs in the protection, conservation and utilization of the forests, the reason why they cannot endure being spectators in managing the Mau Forest Complex sustainably.
The protocol therefore is a significant tool of engagement with the government on integration of Ogiek community in management and utilization of the natural resources within the Mau Forest Complex.
Ideally this framework is within the recognized principles,guidelines and laws and regulations formulated for environmental and natural resources governance nationally and internationally under the Nagoya Protocol on Access to genetic resources and equitable sharing of benefits arising from utilization of Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD).
The protocol gives a lot of relevance to Article 8 (j) of the Convention as it relates to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from utilization of such knowledge (www.cbd.int).
Essentially,Article 69(a) of the Kenyan Constitution provides for ensure sustainable exploitation, utilization, management, protection and conservation of the environment and natural resources.It also provides forequitable sharing of the benefits accruing benefits from natural resources.In this regard,the Ogiek are part of the stakeholders to be included in these processes.
Further Forest Act (2005), promotes participatory forest management in which communities are communities are entitled to access forests based on set out conditions taking cognizance of the customs of the respective community.
It is through consideration of the existing laws, protocols and conventions guiding access to resources for the indigenous communities that OPDP came up with this protocol.
It is a communication of what the Ogiek people need to equally prosper and the government ought to consider it with the seriousness it deserves.It was developed through intensive consultation with the community members.
BCP deliberates on six key areas namely access and benefit sharing agreement, free prior and informed consent agreement, representation, agreement under administration of justice; land administration, management and place names; and traditional related knowledge, practices and innovations.
Under the access and benefit sharing agreement, the community project right to access, share fairly and equitably in any benefits arising from the utilization of their traditional knowledge and resources found in their land; that is in the Mau Forest Complex. It also includes negotiating for access and sharing of benefits.
On free prior and informed consent agreement,the community seeks to be consulted prior to any development project being undertaken on their land and territories.And this can be done through their governance structure,basically the Council of Elders.The council has representatives from the clans.
Regarding,representation;the community appeals to the government recognize their traditional system of governance in the overall leadership unit.
On agreement under administration of justice,the community hold that the Council of Elders all forms of disputes that may arise in access to land,inheritance of properties and family set up.
While on land administration, management and place names,Ogiek agree to own land either communally or privately.However,there shall be portioning into Zone A representing biodiversity conservation, cultural and eco-tourism;Zone B for protected or forested area and rehabilitation and Zone C for settlement area.
The community equally wants a recognition of their traditional related knowledge, practices and innovations.In this regard,they want their values on marriage,death and inheritance as well as traditional dressing codes.Respectively,they do not condone same-sex marriages and polyandry but a man is allowed to have more than one wife.
In conclusion,the Ogiek of Mau Forest Complex direct the attention to the government and non-state actors of recognition of this protocol while developing policies or implementing programmes that directly and indirectly affect their lives in social,cultural,economic and political spectrum.