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Natural Resource Management

Sacred Sites Critical to Biodiversity

For millennia, indigenous and local communities around the world have upheld the responsibilities of their great-great grandparents and their ancestors as the Custodians of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories. Sacred Natural Sites are critical places within ecosystems, such as forests, mountains, rivers and sources of water, which exist as a network embedded within a territory.

Sacred Natural Sites are also of cultural and spiritual importance, as places where the ancestors’ spirits of the community reside, and are akin to temples or churches where the Custodians carry out ceremonies and rituals. Elders within the community play a vital role in upholding the ecological knowledge and customs practised over generations which maintain the well-being of Sacred Natural Sites, ecosystems, territories and local communities.

These customary governance systems recognise Sacred Natural Sites and Territories as places where the laws of Earth can be read, and from which customs, spiritual practices and governance systems are derived to protect the territory as a whole. Therefore, Sacred Natural Sites and Territories are at the heart of ecological, spiritual and cultural practices, and governance systems of indigenous and local communities.

Despite their vital importance, Sacred Natural Sites and Territories in Kenya, and across Africa, are faced with increasing threats of destruction from economic and other developments which have also eroded the customary governance systems of their custodial communities. The failure to respect ecosystems, and the Sacred Natural Sites within them, has a direct impact on the lives and well-being of communities of present and future generations of all life.

This Report examines whether the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the legal, policy and institutional framework in Kenya recognises and supports, or undermines, the rights and responsibilities of communities to govern and protect their Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, according to their customary governance systems and on their own terms.

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