Kenyan community displaced by nature reserve seeks justice
Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
September 22, 2008
For centuries the Endorois people lived as pastoralists, raising cattle and bees, near the shores of Lake Bogoria. Frequently they migrated between Lake Bogoria and Monchongoi Forest, about 45 kilometers apart. In 1974 after a portion of their traditional lands was designated the Lake Bogoria Nature Reserve, the Endorois people were evicted to a small parcel of semi-arid land on their migration route. They became what is known as conservation refugees.
Usually when we hear the term “refugee,” we think of conflict, famine, or, increasingly, climate change. But conservation has created its own form of refugees: people forced from their homelands for the establishment of a reserve or park.
Endorois woman. Photo courtesy of MRG
Promised appropriate compensation and 25 percent of the proceeds from the Lake Bogoria Natural Reserve, the Endorois community received neither. The money was meant to aid the Endorois in building water management systems for the arid landscape, schools, roads, and hospitals. Instead, the Endorois have suffered from poverty and lack of resources, while the Kenyan government has ignored their plight. Wilson Kipkazi, a member of the Endorois Welfare Council, says that “the compensation which the Endorois people have received is approximately Ksh. 3000 (25 pounds or 45 dollars) per household. In 2006 we were offered 4 percent of the total revenue collected from the gate collections from the tourists coming to Lake Bogoria Game Reserve.”
Tradtional Endorois dance. Photo courtesy of MRG
Kipkazi who describes his community as being “marginalized” for 30 years, says that “the Endorois have no problem with the establishment of the game park; however what we require is that the revenue derived from the tourism business, which has thrived during the last 30 years, trickles down to the true custodians of the land—the people who used to live there. We also want the promises of compensation in the form of land and employment opportunities for the Endorois to be honored. What we demand now is prior consent on matters pertaining to development of resources and services found on Endorois ancestral lands and full participation in the management of those resources.”
Walter Kipkazi, a member of the Endorois Welfare Council. Photo courtesy of MRG
An additional threat to the livelihood of the Endorois people emerged in 2003. Without notification, Kenyan officials began selling portions of Endorois land to ruby miners. The mining poisoned the people’s water supply. Eventually, ACHPR was forced to get involved. “In June 2006,” Eastwood told Mongabay.com, “local officials tested Endorois’ drinking water sources and found they were poisonously contaminated as a result of ruby mining. Mining has now stopped until the case is resolved.”
When asked if he believed the Endorois could come to an agreement with the Kenyan government regarding the use of resources and wildlife in their traditional lands, Kipkazi exclaimed, “Yes!” He believes that the combination of his people’s “local knowledge, and the Kenyan government’s understanding of the use of natural resources to create sustainable wealth would mean that we never experience again the kind of poverty we are experiencing at the moment.” Eastwood points out that several parks, such as Maasai Mara, Samburu National Park, and Mount Elgon Game Park, mix “ecotourism and ethical tourism” in Kenya, and are places where indigenous tribes and park officials work together to preserve ecosystems.
Later this year the Endorois expect a final decision from ACHPR on their status. In the meantime, they can do little but wait and hope.
Minority Rights Group International
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