OGIEK TRIBE (DOROBO)
The Ogiek, who number around
20,000, are arguably the largest hunter-gatherer community in Kenya.
It seems likely that the Ogiek are
aboriginal people of present-day East Africa and that originally they
occupied the whole central highlands region. Today, the Ogiek occupy the Mau
Escarpment and Aberdare around the Rift Valley, as well as part of the Mt
Elgon Forest in western Kenya.
Nagol, an Ogiek elder recollects:
- Our forefathers told us that we occupied areas
around forests in this country, before other tribes started coming in
The result of the loss of ancestral lands among the Ogiek is poverty,
illiteracy and poor health; women are more disadvantaged because they lack
property ownership rights and thus tend to be poorer. More than 90 per cent
of the Ogiek could barely afford one proper meal a day.
The Ogiek, having lost their
traditional occupations, have been forced into cultivation farming. They
lack cultivation skills and are exploited by middlemen when they seek to
sell their produce.
One traditional Ogiek occupation,
honey production, could provide communities with a sustainable income,
especially if the honey was processed locally, instead of being sold raw to
middlemen. This would empower the community economically. Currently,
bee-keeping is compromised by charcoal burning as well as pyrethrum
cultivation. Charcoal burning destroys the forest and the fumes from the
burning kill the bees.
The clan (Oret), constituted by
several local groups, is the land holding unit, and the most important unit
socially. The Ogiek do not have centralized leadership institutions like
chieftaincies or political councils.
Poverty among the Ogiek has
resulted in high levels of illiteracy (more than 80 per cent), since parents
cannot afford the cost of education. Girls are most affected by this. Most
girls marry very young.
Primary schools in Ogiek areas are
scattered and there is no single secondary school specifically serving Ogiek
children. Those who pass their primary school examinations have to go to
boarding schools far away. Dropout rates are very high, especially at the
secondary school level.
Locked out of their pharmacies
(the forests), and without money to access health facilities, which are in
any case inadequate (there is only one doctor for the 6,000 people living in
Mau), the health standards of the Ogiek have plummeted. Kaliasoi Chesinet,
an Ogiek elder from Tinet in Nakuru District explains: -
The forest … is our hospital, where the herbs are
The combination of poverty and
inability to access their traditional medicine has resulted in low life
expectancy for Ogiek people of about 46 years. Five out of ten children die
before the age of five.
Culture is the fabric that holds
the Ogiek together. According to Mrs Rael Kibilo from Tinet forest:
- Before our forests were cut down, we had our
culture and traditions … anyone who is destroying our forest is destroying
our culture -.
Displacement from the forests that are their cultural and spiritual temples
erodes Ogiek culture and violates international human rights standards