Resources

Indigenous peoples of Africa like the hunter-gatherer San of Southern Africa, the Pygmies of Central Africa and pastoralists like the Maasai and Samburu have lived in harmony with the environment for millenia and exemplify sustainable living. Indigenous peoples inhabit some of the areas of highest biodiversity in the world and their profound knowledge of plants, animals, and the rhythms and cycles of nature needs to inform attitudes and decisions made by conservation and environmental movements, not only locally but worldwide.

The main publishers of information and stories about indigenous Africans are foreign researchers and journalists, not the people themselves, and as such the documents are often not accurate. These publications also rarely find their way back to grassroots communities in any form the people can understand, relate to or use. A lot of news about Indigenous People in Africa is sensationalised and focuses on crises like the starving pastoralists of Ethiopia or Pygmies in the Ugandan forests attacking tourists. This tends to paint a negative picture of traditional ways of life in Africa. Yet every day there are also positive stories to be told about almost forgotten indigenous communities bravely fighting to conserve catchments and other sensitive areas from mining, logging, oil drilling, dams, commercial plantations, land invasions, etc.

Very few African indigenous communities have access to modern technology and legal support. Two rare exceptions are, firstly, the Ogiek, who are being supported in their High Court battle against the Kenyan government to stop illegal logging in the Mau forest and, secondly, the southern African San, who recently won their case against the pharmaceutical company Phfizer for its patent derived from the Hoodia plant used by the San to stave of thirst and hunger. As important as these test cases are, there are literally thousands of other disempowered indigenous communities living in isolated areas in Africa who have no support in their struggle to protect their land and cultures from wanton destruction and exploitation. In Kenya this includes people like the El Molo, the Waata, the Sengwer, the Awer, the Malakote, Dahalo, Walangkulu to name a few.
Lucy Mulenkei has played a pivotal role in giving voice and providing information to disparate groups of African indigenous peoples fighting to conserve their natural environments and their sustainable ways of life, through her extensive network and the free distribution of the magazine Nomadic News. The magazine is currently produced twice a year with the aim of increasing it to a quarterly publication. Lucy encourages people to write their own stories. Each new publication of Nomadic News includes more articles and photographs by indigenous peoples themselves.

Lucy Mulenkei is a skilled and generous networker who has the ability to relate to grassroots people and understand their needs and concerns, as well as debate environmental issues at top level. She believes information sharing and building strong networks is the best way of assisting poor people to deal with negative environmental and socio-economic challenges. This arms people with knowledge and support to act. She has established an extensive library at IIN that is available to anyone who wishes to use it. She, herself, is a font of knowledge and information, having worked as a radio journalist and senior radio programme producer on environment and development for 16 years. Through her work she has built up personal contacts in the most isolated parts of Kenya and the region, which she visits whenever she has an opportunity. Her small office in Nairobi is open six days a week from 07h00 to 17h00 weekdays and 13h00 on Saturdays and is a hive of activity – a central meeting point for people concerned about the environment and indigenous cultures. Many journeys in the East African region including Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan start at the IIN office.

Jennifer Lopez