Leleu is among the few remaining elders from Sengwer indigenous
people whose ancestral home is located in the vast Kabolet
forest that forms part of Cherangany water tower in northwestern
polygamous father of 17 children is a decorated archivist whose
grasp of his community’s rich cultural norms that include
hunting and bee keeping defies his advanced age.
During an interview
with Xinhua at a forum in Nairobi, Leleu said being an elder in
the forest inhabiting Sengwer community gives him an upper hand
in advocating for its active engagement in conservation of
Cherangany water tower that sustains millions of livelihoods in
northwestern parts of Kenya.
“We have a
historical connection with forests that happens to be our
dwelling place and therefore it is our sacred duty to protect
water sources like Cherangany hills that has lately grappled
with threats related to human encroachment,” said Leleu.
indigenous people whose population is estimated at 33,000
inhabit forests straddling Elgeyo Marakwet and Trans Nzoia
counties in northwestern Kenya.
For centuries, the
Sengwer community has derived its livelihood from the forest
ecosystem while protecting it from both man-made and natural
According to Leleu,
a mixture of indigenous knowledge and strict adherence to
cultural norms and regulations has enhanced the capacity of
Sengwer people to conserve Cherangany water tower.
“As elderly citizens
from a community whose survival is dependent on forest
resources, we have an obligation to teach the young generation
how to conserve this heritage,” Leleu remarked.
He was among dozens
of Sengwer elders who converged at a forum in Nairobi early this
month to lobby for recognition of their right to own and
safeguard ancestral land that include vast forests of
At the same time,
Sengwer community leaders and environmental campaigners decried
eviction from pockets of Kabolet and Embobut forest that are the
bedrock of Cherangany water tower to pave way for implementation
of conservation projects funded by multilateral lenders.
Yator Kiptum, a
51-year-old campaigner and father of seven urged the central
government to engage Sengwer people in all stages of Cherangany
water tower conservation.
recognizes the right of indigenous people to settle in the
forests and engage in their sustainable management using
traditional knowledge. We are therefore calling upon the
government to involve us in conservation programs around
Cherangany water catchment,” said Kiptum.
He revealed that
Sengwer community has established solid mechanisms to enhance
protection of both the Kabolet and Embobut forests whose
depletion has escalated against a backdrop of human encroachment
and climatic stresses.
“So far, we are
carrying out several activities to conserve Embobut forest
including restricted grazing and bee keeping as an alternative
to farming inside the forest,” Kiptum told Xinhua.
He revealed that the
Sengwer people have fully supported the government ban on
cultivation at Embobut forest aware that its depletion could put
their livelihoods at stake.
Embobut forest has stopped and the Sengwer community has taken
action on illegal logging .We appeal for dialogue with the
government to find viable ways to conserve this ecosystem,” said
Kenya’s ministry of
environment in partnership with multilateral donors has since
2016 implemented a climate resilience project on the foothills
of Cherangany water tower.
The project roots
for active involvement of indigenous communities in restoration
of one of the five major water towers in the country.
Albina Cheboi, a
23-year-old youth leader said that forest conservation has a
cultural, economic and environmental imperative in her Sengwer
forest ecosystems is embedded in our traditional cultural
beliefs hence the need for us to be engaged in restoring
Cherangany and other water towers within our locality,” Cheboi
She noted that
indigenous Kenyan communities have been recognized globally for
their outstanding commitment to conserve forest ecosystems that
are the bedrock of sustainable development in the country.