Living mainly in Kenya’s Mau and Mount Elgon Forests, the Ogiek are one of East Africa’s last hunter-gatherer populations. With a distinct culture and traditions tied to their natural environment, the community has a long history of resistance, fighting both eviction from its ancestral land and lack of political power. The Ogiek in the Mau Forest Complex have been collecting fruits, hunting wild animals and practicing beekeeping in the trees for centuries, but the Kenyan government insists that the community is a threat to the Mau.
The forest complex is the main water catchment area for a number of rivers that drain into five major lakes, including Lake Victoria. In past decades, human encroachment for agriculture, charcoal and logging has dramatically reshaped the forest and made the area vulnerable to soil erosion and flooding. It is not only the landscape that has changed - so has the lifestyle of the Ogiek. Now also growing crops and farming, the community is constantly forced to readapt as its surroundings change.
2017 brought a major change: the Ogiek won a case against the Kenyan government in the African Court of Human and People’s Rights in Arusha, Tanzania. The court ruled that the government had violated the Ogiek’s right to their ancestral land, and demanded that the community was appropriately compensated. The euphoria of this victory faded as the Kenyan government has done little to fulfil the court's decision. A glimmer of hope emerged in February 2019, when members of the Ogiek community finally had a chance to present their memorandum to the members of the task force working on implementation of the court's decision.