No longer at Ease: Indigenous Territories Under Siege

Leonida Odongo
Posted June 13, 2021 from Kenya

Indigenous territories  have been deposits of natural resources , flora and fauna for many years. This is because indigenous people  have a natural relationship with the ecosystem. According to Gaia Foundation, Earth Jurisprudence is founded on core principles.  These principles serve as a code of ethics to guide personal, professional and collective practices. According to Gaia Foundation , the earth has principles  which need to be embedded in human governance systems, particularly la, education , economy and religion.[1]Wholeness is one principle which says that the earth is a single community webbed together through interdependent relationship and that no living being nourishes itself. This also means that the wellbeing of the Earth community is dependent on the well-being of earth. [2]Lawfulness means that the universe is lawful and ordered. This means, according to the principles that  human beings can only discover and not make earth centred law. Additionally, this principle views life as sacred and that earth has limits  in the many gifts she has such as water, minerals, land and biodiversity. The limit means that if not take care of ,  minerals , land , water and biodiversity as natural resources  will become depleted.

Earth Jurisprudence further notes that humans have a duty of care and that all members of  the earth community ( human being ) have a responsibility of maintaining the integrity and wellbeing of the earth and are also responsible for generations to come ( future generations).The other principle are Rights of Earth which says that the earth is a living , self- regulating being and that every component of the earth community has three rights namely right to be , the right to habitat and the right to fulfil its role in the every- renewing processes of the earth community. This implies that no being is supposed to interfere with the existence of another being and that  renewal is an intrinsic part of the earth. Reciprocity is key in Earth Jurisprudence. This principle is known  as Mutual Enhancement

Indigenous territories are under siege .This is due to invasion , search for natural resources and the resultant eviction  from their natural territories. Currently new natural resources are being discovered in territories occupied by indigenous people, such include oil and gas.

When new natural resources get discovered in a locality, many a times there is militarism of that area. Additionally different forces come together in attempts to try and control these natural resources .Those who suffer the most during such discoveries are indigenous people because they get stripped of their heritage ,identity . Many a times they get evicted  from their natural habitat and are accused of being the ones responsible for environmental destruction. For example Mozambique’s Cabo  Delgado has huge deposits of energy and gas , but since October 2017, attacks have continued in the northernmost province of Mozambique and this is due to  contestation over resources  leading to a humanitarian crisis. Oil deposits, liquefied natural gas fields and gemstones, projected in 2010 to be worth billions, have culminated in a shift in the political and social climate in neglected Cabo Delgado.[3]According to the United Nations, over 300,000 people have been displaced while more than 2000 civilians have been killed. This violence has left villages abandoned as people flee to safety.[4]

During   extraction of natural resources , local citizens are often kept in the dark about the monetary value  of these resources .For example the oil and gas sector  remains accessible to the privileged few[5] who in turn have close links with the political elite. The inter-relationship between the politically elite in Ghana, for instance, and the national oil fields  is well documented. Transparency, accountability and sharing of relevant information are generally given little consideration in many emerging African economies[6]. There are often wrangles as to benefit sharing of existing natural resources as exemplified by the oil discovery in Kenya’s Turkana region[7] and many a times the local community ends up not benefiting from what is in their territories. There is also the increased militarism of indigenous territories once natural resources are discovered. And when security come in indigenous territories, they often come not to protect the indigenous people but the interests of the investing companies.

Indigenous people continue to lose their land , thanks to the emergence of conservancies with setting up of conservancies , Indigenous People get removed from their environments and the conservancies have guards .The prevailing mode of conservation, dating to the colonial era, is premised on the assumption that human habitation is at odds with environmental integrity. Instead of recognising and rewarding indigenous communities for defending and nourishing biodiversity within their homelands, they are often evicted to make way for protected areas (national parks, game reserves, wildlife sanctuaries).[8]What we need to remind ourselves  is that indigenous people have been co-existing with natural habitats for years .But under the guise of development  and so called environmental protection indigenous people get kicked out of their homelands. This not a novel concept for indigenous peoples who have lived in harmony with their environments, safeguarding biodiversity since time immemorial, as demonstrated by the fact that indigenous territories comprise 22% of the world’s land surface, but contain 80% of its biodiversity[9] Environmental sustainability is at the core of the existence of indigenous people because their physical needs, cultural identities and traditional ways of life are intricately connected to nature. Indigenous people though not recognised for the vital role they play in sustaining mother earth mainstream are among the world’s  best custodians  of nature .

Environmental sustainably is a necessity for many indigenous communities, whose physical needs, cultural identities and traditional ways of life are intimately connected to nature. In turn, their territories are havens of diverse flora and fauna, rich in resources and rare species, evidence of their unassailable track record as the world’s best environmental custodians[10].Indigenous people are losing their land to conservancies .Loss of land for indigenous people means cultural ethnocide as they can no longer practice their cultures as dictated by their way of life , it also means loss of sources of livelihoods as many a times Indigenous communities are forced to assimilate with communities which they have no linguistic affiliation thus losing their language as well in the process of assimilation. Attempts by indigenous people to go back to their natural territories after evictions  often results into arrests as has been the case of the Sengwer in Kenya’s Embobut forest who have over the years faced evictions and loss of their land[11].

What the worlds needs to reflect is that Indigenous People are the world’s best ecosystem defenders. The wanton destruction of Indigenous territories in the name of extraction has  a negative effect on lives, livelihoods and futures of indigenous people Indigenous territories continue to be the world’s best laboratories full of natural medicine  as  well as home to diverse species of flora and fauna. This calls for concerted efforts to protect indigenous communities and value their very existence because when Indigenous territories become replaced by roads, dams , skyscrapers and scorching earth  because of  extraction of natural resources  where will the world get its  supply of medicines and food?.

Indigenous territories should be held sacred, there should be deliberate efforts to bring back lost varieties of species not only within the African continent, but the world at large. This is because we live in a shared ecosystem and are globally connected, the ecosystem destruction happening in one part of the world has effects in other parts of the globe. We need  to shift from a capitalist mode of production and consumption to a system that  respects mother nature.

References 

[1] https://www.gaiafoundation.org/what-we-do/story-of-origin-growing-an-ear...

[2] ibid

[3] https://mg.co.za/africa/2020-10-21-the-natural-resource-curse-in-cabo-de...

[4] ibid

[5] https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/africaatlse/2020/05/25/kenya-turkana-oil-and-gas...

[6] ibid

[7] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-oil-idUSKCN1VG1FQ

[8] https://minorityrights.org/2020/05/22/biodiversity-day/

[9] ibid

[10] ibid

[11] https://redd-monitor.org/2020/07/15/forced-evictions-in-the-name-of-cons...

This story was submitted in response to Protecting Our Planet.

Comments 20

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Tamarack Verrall
Jun 15
Jun 15

Dear Leonida,
This is so important, and you have laid out the tricks and violent measures that big business in collusion with governments do to Indigenous people everywhere. "Instead of recognizing and rewarding indigenous communities for defending and nourishing biodiversity within their homelands, they are often evicted to make way for protected areas". "300,000 people have been displaced while more than 2000 civilians have been killed". This is a familiar story to me, living in Canada, my European ancestors having taken indigenous territories and continue to do, dealing with big businesses to take and ruin more.
"Indigenous People are the world’s best ecosystem defenders...indigenous people have been co-existing with natural habitats for years" so true. We must work all together to stop this ruination of our beloved Earth. So glad to know you are part of Gaia. I depend on environmental activists, all of our work to end violence is connected. Indigenous women are leading the way here in my country, as in many others. Thanks for the links, I plan to explore and learn more.

Leonida Odongo
Jun 19
Jun 19

Dear Tam,
Thank you for reading .

Best

Leonida

MUKABA ZAWADI
Jun 16
Jun 16

Merci pour le partage.

Leonida Odongo
Jun 19
Jun 19

Dear Mukaba ,

You are welcome.

Best

Leonida

Elizabeth Francis
Jun 17
Jun 17

Wow, well researched, well documented presentation. The wanton destruction of our ecosystem is of grave concern and shouldn't be the concern of a few but all citizens of this planet, because it affects us all in some way.
I share your concern especially as it addresses the indigenious prople. It truly an injustice drive people from their natural habitat. I stand in solidarity with you as you raise your voice and also raise awareness. Keep on shining sister, love and light

Leonida Odongo
Jun 19
Jun 19

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for the comments and for reading.

Best

Leonida

Luana
Jun 17
Jun 17

Dear Leonida,
Such a well researched and detailed post. You are right, the ecosystem's destruction is a huuuuge concern to all of us. Thanks for sharing this & the links; so very enlightening plus I've learned a new word today.

Leonida Odongo
Jun 19
Jun 19

Dear Luana,

You are most welcome .Thanks for reading and engaging with the article.

Best

Leonida

Anum Shakeel
Jun 18
Jun 18

Dear Sister Leonida,
It's a well researched and thought provoking post. Indeed, the ecosystem's destruction is a vital concern on the global level. Thanks for sharing this.

Leonida Odongo
Jun 19
Jun 19

Dear Anum,

I agree with you .The ecosystem is in a crisis .Thank you for reading.

Best

Leonida

Susu Mohamed
Jun 18
Jun 18

Dear Leonida,
“Wow” I loved the way you made research, will gives us more impact our community thank you for sharing.
Regards,
suu

Leonida Odongo
Jun 19
Jun 19

Dear Susu,

You are welcome.

Best

Leonida

charlenegailtaruwona

Hello my sister,
Thank you for the very informative and well researched post. Surely we really need to take care of our ecosystems.

Leonida Odongo
Jun 23
Jun 23

Dear Charlene,

I agree with you we have a responsibility to protect Mother Earth .

Best

Leonida

Carolyn Seaman
Jun 25
Jun 25

Dear Leonida,

Thank you for sharing so intelligently the huge risk that mother earth is at the hands of exploiters who have no heart for our earth and care less about nurturing it and sustaining it for generations to come to enjoy it as w have. Unfortunately, the exploitation is on the increase and in a Continent like Africa, the ignorance of people continues to be a huge factor. This is why we need to keep putting out messages about the importance of environmental sustainability. We need to demystify the concept of climate change, deforestation, environmental sustainability and the like. This will help to educate the every day people and empower them to take active steps to save the earth. We all need to be the generation that restores peace to our earth. #GenerationRestoration

In Solidarity,
Carolyn

Leonida Odongo
Jun 26
Jun 26

Dear Carolyn,

I agree with you.

Best

Leonida

Kat Haber
Jun 25
Jun 25

May wild lands and original people inspire settlers to respect the spirited relations between among all life forms in Earth.
Well done, Leonida.

Leonida Odongo
Jun 26
Jun 26

So be it !

Best

Leonida

Beth Lacey
Jul 07
Jul 07

Very comprehensive and a critically important issue

Queen Sheba D Cisse
Aug 09
Aug 09

Greetings Leonida,
I enjoyed reading this article. I believe every person on the planet responsible enough have a accountability to respect this Mother Earth as I call her. Greed and corruption has and is still a torture to her. Let's educate and give back to our only home of human existence. We have a responsibility to nurture, care and Respect this beautiful abode gifted to us by Almighty GOD
Thanks for writing and sharing this story my dear.

Mama Queen