June 19, 2009

First Steps

For close to an year now, I have been talking about doing this one project. Everybody with whom i have shared the idea with tells me to go for it. Now I have finally gotten off my behind and gone for it.

I want to teach film.

I know, we have too many film makers. But, how many of those are Ogiek? You don't know who / what Ogiek is? They are a tribe. Why dont you know them? Because they are not even counted as part of the 42 tribes of Kenya. They are about 20,000 of them, in a country that has a population of about 38,000,000. That is, 0.052% of the Kenyan population. This minute group of people, 10,000 of them live in the Mau Forest. Mau forest has been a bone of contention between the Kenyan Government and the 'protectors of the forest', the Ogiek. They are a hunting / gathering community. They have lived there for centuries... but the government wants them out. Why? They say they are degrading the forest. They are logging, cultivating, hearding, etc,the government says The cycle is fucked up, for luck of a better word. Yes, the Ogiek are farming. I went there, I saw it. So are many other people.

Now, long ago, before the people with power allocated the very beautiful, very fertile mau forest to their families and friends, the Ogiek lived there. They had no cows (in fact, the Maasai call them ildodobo, meaning ' a poor man with no cattle', neither did they farm. They hunted gathered, amongst other things, honey from the beehives they made. When logging and farming started, they were forced deeper into the forest. Deeper and deeper they moved as the clearing of the forest continued. Less that 12% of the forest now remains. The Ogiek can move no further, there are no enough trees to erect hives on, no enough animals for them to hunt. So they farm.

But even in their farming, it is easy to see they are not the cause. While other communities like the Kikuyu and Kalenjin farm with tractors and till land that is acres and acres , the Ogiek farm on less than an acre per family. The other communities have build nice and posh houses while the Ogiek live in dilapidated thatch roof huts.

But who cares? When the Mau forest is spoken about, all fingers point to the 10,000 people living in the area, an area of 46,278 hectares. Aint no way 10,000 people are the ones responsible for the destruction! A report in 2007 showed that most people had bought land in Mau forest, and its not secret that Timsales logs in the forest. Who owns Timsales? This might give you a little history lesson!

Sorry for rambling on and on. The point is, someone needs to aid the Ogiek in raising their voice against evictions, harassment, killings...they need to show the world that they are not savages, they are also Kenyans, and more importantly, human beings threatened with extinction!

How can you help? You can:

**follow the projects progress and share on this blog
**Join the Facebook Page and share with others
**Suggest ways that you can help to protect this indigenous community.