Kenya's Sengwer Tribe Faces Eviction from Ancestral Forest

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Embobut, Kenya
March 6, 2015

The Sengwer, a tribe of hunter-gatherers and beekeepers who also keep livestock, have lived in Cherangany mountains in Kenya - land they consider sacred - for centuries. Today, they face eviction from their ancestral lands. Approximately 12,000 people were told to move from the forest area to make way for a nature conservation and reforestation project financed by the Kenyan government and the World Bank. The Sengwer, however, pride themselves for their traditional methods for preserving their heritage lands. When they refused, forest guards began burning down their houses.


  1. 00:00 – 00:06: Paul Kibet, a Sengwer community speaker
  2. 00:07 – 00:11: Traditional houses of Sengwer people.
  3. 00:12 – 00:16: Two members of Sengwer community walking from the hills towards the nearest village.
  4. 00:17 – 00:21: Sengwer cow herdsmen resting in the afternoon sun.
  5. 00:22 – 00:27: Sengwer man in his shelter built after the forest guards burnt his house.
  6. 00:28 – 00:32: Sengwer man in his shelter built after the forest guards burnt his house.
  7. 00:33 – 00:37: Trees in Cherangany mountains.
  8. 00:38 – 00:44: A group of Sengwer people is walking towards the nearest village to sell the milk.
  9. 00:45 – 00:49: A group of Sengwer people is walking towards the nearest village to sell the milk.
  10. 00:50 – 00:55: Trees in Cherangany mountains.
  11. 00:56 – 01:02: Embobut forest.
  12. 01:03 – 01:06: Precious red cedars in the Embobut forest.
  13. 01:07 – 01:11: Elder of Sengwer community using his mobile phone while walking to his village.
  14. 01:12 – 01:16: Sengwer woman with her cows.
  15. 01:17 – 01:22: Sengwer shepherds keep their livestock at an altitude of 3 000 metres.
  16. 01:23 – 01:30: Paul Kibet, a Sengwer community speaker.
  17. 01:31 – 01:35: Two Sengwer women walking through highlands.
  18. 01:36 – 01:39: River in Embobut forest.
  19. 01:40 – 01:45: A shelter built in place of a house burned by forest guards.
  20. 01:46 – 01:52: Paul Kibet speaking to the community of Sengwers.
  21. 01:53 – 01:56: River in Embobut forest.
  22. 01:57 – 02:00: River in Embobut forest.
  23. 02:01 – 02:05: Paul Kibet, a Sengwer community speaker.


  1. soundbite (English)
    Paul Kibet, Sengwer community leader: After independence, the Kenyan government started bringing a lot of problems to our land. They took our land and declared it as a state forest. But this is our ancestral land. The government gave a notice to our community: ‘you should have to move out from the forest.’ They were planning to evict my people. They moved a lot of forest guards into this place. They destroyed our homes. Almost 800 homes, homesteads, were destroyed, that belonged to the population of 12 000 of people who are residing in this area. Actually, from the forest we cannot move, because we have our sacred places, our spiritual places. We normally perform a lot of rituals, and its actually very difficult to move out of ancestral land. You cannot move spirits and sacred places. It is really very hard. There are a lot of medicinal herbs in the forest, and actually, we are the best environmentalists. As you can see this big, huge forest around... nobody had been preserving it but indigenous people, because we have our own customary law. We have our own culture on how to preserve the forest, and you are not allowed to fell a live tree. The government is trying to explain to us that: No, you don´t know how to preserve.’ But we want to tell the world, ‘The indigenous people have the best knowledge of conserving their environment.’ I would never move out of this place, even if I’d be given millions. I’d never move to town because town is so polluted. When you come to our land, it is so fresh. We have fresh air, clean water, not polluted, and everything here is well and good. It is pure. The burning started around 1973. Up until 2015 we are still being burned out by the government, and they don't have enough reasons to tell us why are they burning us. Because we don´t destroy the forest. Everyone can come to this place and can witness that the forest is intact, the water is still flowing, plenty of water. There is not enough reason for why they are doing these very harmful things to our communities.