In a bid to fulfil Sustainable Development Goal 7 on Clean and Affordable Energy, Kenya is working towards utilization of 100% renewable energy supply by 2030. This energy will mainly be generated from windmills, biomass, solar, hydropower and geothermal plants.
This has led to an increase in the number of renewable energy development projects set up on Indigenous Peoples’ (IPs) lands and territories. Therefore, there is a need to set up a framework to promote a human-rights based approach for the development of energy infrastructures on indigenous lands and territories.
Through the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG), the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP), in collaboration with Indigenous Movement for Peace Advancement and Conflict Transformation (IMPACT) and Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT), are implementing a renewable energy project in Kenya targeting IPs’ territories affected by corporate/government-led renewable energy projects.
This project’s main objectives are; to ensure that renewable energy projects are fully aligned with the respect and protection of human rights and to provide at least 50 million IPs access to renewable energy by 2030.
On 4th November 2020, REP implementers in Kenya led by OPDP held a project inception meeting in Naivasha at Masada Hotel to roll out the project. The meeting’s objective was to map out case studies on energy projects, Indigenous communities and stakeholders. Implementers were also expected to agree on the research and case study methodologies and implementation during the meeting.
Through a zoom presentation, Dr Aloys Osano, Director Research and Innovation Maasai Mara University, made an introduction of Renewable Energy defining it as “the energy that is replenishable /energy that is environmentally, and socio-economically sustainable”.
He also talked about Renewable Energy Technologies (RET) terming them as the energy-providing technologies that utilize energy sources in ways that do not deplete the Earth’s natural resources and are as environmentally friendly as possible. He further highlighted the benefits and impacts brought about by RET, analyzed the Kenyan context on RET, expounded on the challenges faced by RET and finally illustrated challenges that arise from IP’s interacting with Renewable Energy Projects set up within their territories.
Dr Aloys in his closing remarks noted that there exist various policies that guide RET, “all these policies have focused on ensuring accessibility of energy sources to poor people emphasizing sustainability, equity, socio-economic empowerment and environmental protection”. he concluded.
Dr Kanyinke Sena, Director Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC) spoke about Right Energy Partnership in Kenya with a focus to the IPs. He gave a detailed analysis of the phases that Renewable Energy development follows, including exploration, generation, transmission and distribution. Dr Kanyinke further explained the opportunities available at every level and emphasized how IPs could exploit those opportunities for their benefits. He urged the participants present to help the IP community to shift from a victim mentality and rise to explore and exploit Renewable Energy opportunities within their territories.
“What does benefit mean? How do you value the benefit? What benefit equates to the loss of land? Is it possible for IPs to get exactly what they deserve from the utilization of natural resources within their territories?
These are some of the questions that Ms. Ikal Angelei, Founder and Director Friends of Lake Turkana posed to the participants. She then led a lively session on REP project mapping and setting up priorities. Participants highlighted energy projects and locations they felt needed to be looked into through research and case studies. It was agreed that case studies will take place in Marsabit, Kajiado, Turkana and Narok.
Closing the session, Ms Ikal said, “there is a need to strengthen Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) awareness among IPs. We should have these conversations without an ongoing or a prospective project in mind. I have realized that each time we go to the community to talk about FPIC we are prompted by an ongoing project or the prospect of a project being set up within their lands and territories. At this point, the community have already been approached and given enticing promises of the benefits they stand to accrue should the project be set up within their land. Yes, they will listen to you but at the back of their mind the benefits promised still linger, this ultimately challenges the community’s utilization of FPIC. As much as we use common social events like the marriage process to model FPIC we should further delink FPIC from ongoing/prospective projects.” She went on, “we also need to help IPs come up with their tools and protocols on FPIC that they will be using anytime a company or the government approached them wanting to set up a project within their lands”.
“We want these projects, if done correctly they provide opportunities and infrastructure to IPs. We need these opportunities where IPs take charge, but the whole process should be indigenized as much as possible”. Said Mr Riamit, one of the participants