Indigenous communities’ own conservation practices are vital to biodiversity conservation, said two new reports  launched by communities in Kenya  and Ghana . These are part of a series of reports from 12 countries by the Global Forest Coalition’s  Community Conservation Resilience Initiative (CCRI) , which strives to influence policy-makers about indigenous/local communities’ role in protecting biodiversity, showing the threats they face, and pushing for greater policy support for their efforts.
In Kenya, the Maasai peoples and the Rendille peoples, both pastoralist communities have lived in harmony with wildlife and conserved the forests through customary laws and values.
For instance, in Kenya’s Nyekweri Kimintet Forest, which borders the famous Maasai Mara National Park, community members have given up their private land to form the 6000 acre Nyekweri Forest Kimintet Trust, to conserve this key elephant breeding site and prevent land being converted for other uses.
In Ghana, all three communities are part of the Ewe ethnic group, which conserves nature through sacred groves and sites, taboos, totems, observations and practices. These help to safeguard critical ecosystems and endemic species, helping to halt deforestation outside forest reserves .
However, community members in both countries have also identified serious threats to their territories and conservation efforts. For example in Ghana, extractive industries were identified as a major problem. Community members from Avuto, which is the only home to the threatened Sitatunga (an amphibious antelope species) described how their territory has been opened up to oil and gas extraction by multinational companies.
Industrial agriculture in indigenous territories is also a key threat leading to land conflicts. In Ghana, cocoa and coffee farms are illegally encroaching into conserved forest areas. Other threats include lack of legal protection of community forests, illegal logging, and over grazing.
“We in Kpoeta (Ghana) have seen our aesthetic mountain ecosystem destroyed through the myopic and misguided actions of our political elites,” said Mr Constantine Kosi Agbo from the Kpoeta community.
The communities propose solutions to these threats including better policy support, stronger tenure rights, strengthening linkages with government authorities, financial support to manage conservation areas and reforestation initiatives, and support to volunteer game scouts to monitor the conservation areas.
“As a community that is keen on conservation, the CCRI has reminded us that we can now plan to restore our conservation practices and strengthen our resilience more effectively. We are committed to continue our traditional conservation practice.” Said Sankau Ole Ntokoyuan, a Masai elder from Kenya.
See also a short video from CCRI in Ghana here:
And CCRI in Kenya:
NOTES Links to the reports can be found here:
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