US$500 to Lucy Mulenkei who runs the Indigenous Information Network (IIN)
in Kenya, a small, two person NGO that she started five years ago with minimal
support but that manages to:
· write for, edit and publish the popular grassroots publication, Nomadic News, which focuses on environmental issues and successes affecting pastoralists and hunter-gatherers in Africa,
· disseminate additional environmental information related to the indigenous movement worldwide,
· organise several stimulating workshops in Nairobi to provide a much-needed platform for African indigenous people to share and discuss information and to clarify their positions with respect to important international events like the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the current work on Decision VI/10 to the Convention on Biological Diversity on Article 8(j) which focuses on the role of indigenous people in conserving biodiversity, and
· produce at least one video, i.e. A day in the life of a pastoralist woman which, in addition to gender work imbalance, illustrates the growing hardships associated with environmental degradation.
In 2002 she was the only woman nominated to sit on the nine member National Environment Council, which advises the Kenyan Ministry of Environment.
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.
During the last five years Lucy Mulenkei has organised several regional, continental and international workshops in Kenya including the recent 4th Conference of the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal peoples of the Tropical Forest in November 2002. These workshops provide a forum for indigenous people to prepare position papers on sustainable development, the role of indigenous women in addressing environmental, gender and social issues, biodiversity conservation policies, etc. Her timely publication of the proceedings of all the meetings she organises helps to inform decision makers and ordinary people of the unique perspectives and opinions on current issues of the often forgotten indigenous peoples of Africa. No group or community is too small to matter. In fact Lucy Mulenkei is deeply committed to focussing on the struggles of the hunter-gatherer peoples of Africa, who are the most marginalized and victimised of all.
disseminate the information both on radio and in print
c/o Indigenous Information Network (IIN)
Galexon House, 301A 3rd Floor
Off Mbagathi Way
P O Box 74908
Tel: (+254 © 2) 272 3958
Fax: (+254 © 2) 272 9607
e©mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and Mulenkei@yahoo.com.