Biocultural Heritage

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Establishing a biocultural territory in Kenya

17 Oct 2022

In the run up to the Convention on Biological Diversity COP15, a new podcast explores how a self-governed biocultural heritage territory can protect Kenya's sacred Kaya forests, and provide an effective and equitable alternative to state-run protected areas. It also examines the role of biocultural territories in conserving genetic resources and traditional knowledge for climate adaptation.

Whispers of the Earth

In the 16th century, when hostile tribes threatened the Mijikenda indigenous communities living in southern Somalia, they found refuge in the coastal lowland forests of Kenya.

Over the centuries, they started to manage and protect these forests, commonly known as the Kayas, based on their spiritual beliefs and cultural practices. But today, in the wake of modernisation and social transformation, they find it hard to hold on to their traditional beliefs and practices. And unfortunately, they are not alone.

They are one of many communities around the globe struggling to keep alive the knowledge systems that have helped them conserve the natural world for centuries. So, in the wake of the disappearing knowledge systems, will the Mijikendas be able to continue to protect the same forests that once protected them?

As we stand amid a climate crisis, do we need to look more consciously at the traditional knowledge and belief systems of local communities alongside science in conservation? Or can science alone help address the climate crisis?

Are Biocultural Heritage Territories the answer? Or is it the art of knowledge-making in conversation that is equally important?


Episode contributors

  • Chemuku Wekesa, PhD, landscape ecologist, Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KFRI)
  • Krystyna Swiderska, principal researcher (agriculture and biodiversity), Natural Resources research group, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
  • Yuvan Aves, ecologist, naturalist, author, nature educator, and co-founder and Trustee of Palluyir Trust for Nature Education and Research, India
  • Hosted and produced by Pooja Chowdhary


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