Kivaa hill is not an ordinary hill to the people of Matuu as Mzee Munguti Kavivya, chairman of the sacred sites protection group says, “The hill represents the strides we have taken as a community to protect our fragile ecosystem.”
“This hill”, he points out, “was the source of rich traditional remedies used by our fore fathers and their fathers before them.” But population pressure and other effects of civilisation saw the community encroach into the hill and clear land areas for settlement putting this rich ecosystem at the risk of extinction.
“People cut down trees to clear land for cultivation and settlement,” he adds. This wanton destruction of the hill’s natural flora had far reaching effects on the people of Kivaa. “It first began with very erratic rainfall patterns we could not plan for and then one day, the rains just stopped.
What was to follow was a long spell of drought and famine that nearly wiped the people of Kivaa off the face of the earth – the drought is one of the harshest and the longest in Kenya’s history. “When ICE came, we were desperate and hungry. We had no water and our source of herbal remedies was quickly fading away. ICE told us that the secret to our survival rested in the protection of the indigenous forest on the hill”. It was after realising the blunder that they had done that the old men of the village came together and with help from ICE, they started a concerted effort to protect what natural heritage was remaining and rebuild the hill’s lost glory.
“We owned up to our mistake as a community and worked collectively to revive the forest,” says mzee Munguti. Strict rules and regulations governing the use of the hill were developed and each member of the community was tasked with the responsibility of ensuring these rules were followed. “Our government also helped us a lot because any time a person was caught breaking the set laws, our local chief was on hand to administer the law of the land to its full extent, says Munguti.
Soon word spread that the hill should be left alone.
Since then we have worked together to replant trees on the hill and our efforts are beginning to pay off. We are hoping that some day we can even transform this place to an eco-tourism site.
Kivaa hill is now a treasure for the people of Kivaa. It occupies a sentimental place in their hearts and because of all the conservation efforts that have gone into it in the recent past, it will certainly continue to be a source of rich herbal remedies and the source of much needed rain.