Participants from both sides stressed the importance of the Colloquium as an opportunity for the government and communities to engage meaningfully with each other, and to establish an ongoing dialogue to address contentious issues.
In her opening address, Professor Judi Wakhungu, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources, underlined the government's commitment to balance the conservation of forest resources and the rights of all citizens, including forest-dependent communities.
Speaking on behalf of the forest-dependent communities, Moses Leleu Laima acknowledged the government's intention to engage the communities in order to resolve conflicts that have persisted for decades, and appreciated the World Bank's role in facilitating the unique conversation.
“This process is very important because it is the first time that we are having an open and sincere dialogue,” said Laima, who is in his eighties. “We expect a fruitful outcome with the communities appreciating the need to conserve forests and the government addressing their needs.”
Speakers from the various communities expressed similar sentiments while frankly laying out their concerns on issues like tenure, access and security.
The Colloquium was addressed by, among others, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen of Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Governor Jackson Mandago of Uasin Gishu County, and Mohammed Swazuri, chairman of the National Land Commission.
“This Colloquium enables the forest-dependent communities to engage with the government and have their voices heard in a constructive setting,” said Diarietou Gaye, the World Bank's country director for Kenya.
The Colloquium continues through Friday. In order to help the participants find constructive ways forward, speakers include international experts who will share the experience of other countries in the management of forest resources.