Help the pastoralist Maasai (Kenya) save their sacred forest

Marilyn H. Fetterman (AN700018@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 5 Nov 1993 08:00:04 EST

The pastoralist Loita Maasai (Kenya) have issued the following request
for people to write, fax or telephone President Moi to preserve
their sacred forests from commercial development. Kindly note that
people are asked to "Please send courteous letters."

If you know any people who might be willing to write a letter who do not
subscribe to ANTHRO-L (or INTDEV-L, AFRICA-L, AFRICA-N and DEVEL-L), the
document is available via ftp and the African Studies section of the
University of Pennsylvania gopher:

ftp then select menu items 2, 2, 11, 2, 7, 27
Title (of 27): Support the Maasai Reserve!

I would like to express my personal thanks to Andy Rose for
agreeing to extract 'masai' from the longer document where he
originally included it, 'Nov3' (pub/andyrose/Nov93/Nov3), and
to Julie Sisskind for including the document in the African
Studies gopher.

Marilyn H. Fetterman, List Owner AFRICA-L
From: Kenneth Walsh <>
Subject: Massai Reserve
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1993 20:29:55 GMT

The following message has been received by staff at the
Environmental Defense Fund from Gilbert Arum works for KENGO, an
environmental NGO in Kenya.
Vry Bst Rgds Yr Dvtd Svnt
Vox: 202 387-3500 Kenneth Walsh
Fax: 202 234-6049 International Program
Internet: Environmental Defense Fund
IGC: edf 1875 Conn. Ave., N.W. #1016
Washington, D.C. 20009

Now, there is a small matter in which we would like the assistance of EDF and
other organizations. I will try and describe what it is.

Some three 300 or so kilometres south west of Nairobi, there is a maasai
community. This community have in their posession one of the last truly
serene places on earth. This place, that all the maasai in east africa use
maasai use for spiritual purposes is now up for grabs by some powerful
politicians, who want to open it up for South African investment.

The politicians are colluding with the local government authority to deny the
maasai what is is truly theirs.

Last week, the maasai elders went to see the President. There message was
simple: They have a forest that they have conserved for a long time and the
local council wants to develop it for commercial purposes. They, the locals,
would like the president to restrain the local council so as to allow them to
conserve the forest for posterity.

The President promised the elders that the forest would not be taken away from
them. This, however, is not the view that the elders got from the Minister for
Environment and Natural Resources when they went to follow up the issue. The
Minister seems to subscribe to the view that the elders who want to conserve
the forest are impeding development.

Another Minister, who comes from near the area, and who is being
seen by many to be involved in the scandal, quickly organised another group to
go and see the President. Their message was that the elders were wrong to have
gone to see the President without being accompanied by their elected leaders
(the same people who run the local council!!). They now want the trust that
was set up by the local people deregistered (the same trust through which the
local conservation activities are performed).

What I have given you is a sketchy brief. It is important that the president
recieves pressure from outside in support of the local people.

We therefore urge you to copy the following brief and distribute it as wide as

A Call for Solidarity
Maasai Spiritual Enclave Threatened

The Loita Naimina Enkiyio is a unique forest located 300 km
south west of Nairobi. It is a sacred, spiritual and religious enclave
venerated by all the Maasai people who are indigenous to this area. Based on
a sophisticated social and ethnocultural organization, the Loita Maasai who
live in this area, have evolved a refined pastoral economy whereby the 400 km2
forest remains well preserved. This is manifested by the undisturbed forest
ecosystem that shelters a rich and varied bird and animal life many of which
are rare and a few endemic. The biodiversity index of this area is much higher
than the neighbouring world famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve. The importance of
this forest goes beyond the conservation of Kenya's remaining natural
heritage; it acts as a catchment area for the numerous streams and springs
that provide an all year round water source to the Loita Maasai and their

The Narok County Council, the local government authority in the area, plans to
use the forest as a dispersal area for tourists visiting the neighbouring
Maasai Mara Game Reserve. The Council hopes to solve the ecological crisis
facing the Maasai Mara Reserve by distributing the damage over a wider area.
This arbitrary act can only lead to environmental degradation and disruption
of the Loita Maasai's way of life.

The Loita Maasai (a sub-tribe of the Maasai People), have neither been
consulted on these plans, nor have their consent been sought. Led by their
leader, the Chief Laibon, Mokompo Ole Simel, they protested this move.
According to Ole Simel, the move violates their land rights and undermines
their spiritual well being. They see the council's decisions as tantamount to
a defilement of the holiest shrine of the Maasai people. Further, removal of
the forest from the stewardship of the Loita Maasai is a transgression and a
violation of the freedom of worship that is guaranteed in the Kenyan
constitution. In addition, the statutory requirement of an Environmental
Impact Assessment has not been met.

Please write to the President of the Republic of Kenya expressing concern over
the issue and pointing out that he and his Government have a duty to ensure
that the Loita Maasai community and their leaders take an active part in the
formulation of a plan for the Forest. Ask him to pay particular attention to
the concerns of the Loita Maasai. Remind him that the Council's decision to
take the Loita Forest away from the local people goes against the principles
of natural justice as contained in Chapter 26 of Agenda 21 of which he is a

Please send courteous letters to:
His Excellency Daniel T. arap Moi
President of the Republic of Kenya
P.O. Box 30510
Telephone: (254-2) 227411
Telefax: (254-2) 723666

Issued by the *Ilkerin Loita Integral Development Project. P.O. Box 128,
Narok, Kenya

*Ilkerin Loita Integral Development Project was started 20 years ago. It is a
community based organization; fully owned and managed by the Loita Maasai
pastoralists with the aim of training the local people to manage their
development and other desired socio-economic, political and cultural changes.
They now run their own schools, health facilities, veterinary programme,
livestock breeding and marketing co-operatives.