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    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


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