The Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) was founded in 1999, and registered as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in 2001 by the Kenyan government. It was formed by typical Ogiek elders, opinion leaders, farmers and professionals after long land historical injustices that deprived Ogiek community of its rights as Kenyan citizen. Its aim is to promote and protect Ogiek culture, land, language, environment, and human rights. It is based in Nakuru town and operates in three main counties inhabited by this community namely: - Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, and Narok.
Ogiek means ‘ caretaker of all’ of plants and animals, or scientifically the flora and fauna. The Maasai nicknamed them “ iltorobo” that meant a poor person without herds of cattle. They are a hunter gatherer group and solely depend on the forest for food, medicine, shelter and preservation of their culture. Ogiek being foresters and conservators of nature, they are found in places where trees, birds and wild animals provides them with psychological comfort. Ogiek population is being estimated to be approximately 30,000 people, though no exact census have been done clearly targeting this endangered community. Majority of its members live in Mau forest, in the great Rift Valley Province. Due to their small in number, the Ogiek have been an easy target for all kinds of frustrations including those seeking land on which to farm or graze.
Ogiek are the only remaining with largest group among the other hunter gatherer in East Africa. For almost 40 years now, the sporadic displacement of the Ogiek (derogatively referred as Dorobo) has undertaken significant toll on its youth. A generation of youth has been born in this problem that has continue to negotiate elusive solutions e.g. relocation of the Ogiek to non-forest reserves and the commission of enquiring into the land law systems in Kenya (for instance the Njonjo and Ndungu land commissions respectively), besides the formulation of National Land policy.
The Ogiek continue to be denied security, education, employment and opportunity to grow into productive citizens. It is therefore improper to deny people access to her only source of livelihoods. It is also emerges with clarity that the Ogiek live in a different unique time frame with traditional legal provisions that obviously lack integration with the British law that Kenya government subscribes to. This eliminates the fact that the Ogiek require to be understood and be integrated in the national laws.
For over the year’s hunter gathering has been a neglected sector and it has been regarded as an unsustainable and primitive/backward lifestyle. This led to social and policy exclusion of the Ogiek community in decision making process that led to continued marginalization of the society in national policy formulation/making process and spheres of development. Poor infrastructure, poverty, insecurity, lack of market, inadequate social facilities and information and low levels of participation in the formal education systems and poor performance characterize Ogiek inhibited areas and these conditions contribute to extreme levels of poverty among the community. These areas includes; Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Kuresoi, Koibatek and Narok districts.
OPDP was founded so as to provide a springboard from which Ogiek community can take a lead role in articulating and advancing their developments, aspirations, priorities and social needs and constantly engaging the government and other shareholders on these issues.