The European Union Ambassador to Kenya Simon Mordue has expressed his gratitude to the Kenyan government and the local populations concerned, who worked tirelessly to try to find an agreement. Ambassador Mordue underlines that the EU has explored a large number of possibilities and avenues to try to come to a positive outcome, and made important advances towards finding a solution that can reconcile environmental and forest protection with the rights of indigenous forest dwellers. However, all these efforts have not hitherto lead to concrete and tangible agreements and commitments before the deadline of 24th September 2020. The contracting deadline had been extended three times, for an additional 3 years in total, and the European Union was not in a position to further extend the contracting period.
Over the last two and a half years, the EU Delegation has worked in cooperation with various stakeholders, including the National and County governments, the Kenyan National Commission for Human Rights, the Task Force on the Ogiek, and local communities living in the project area to find a solution to the human rights and conservation issues.
“It is encouraging that dialogue between the Government of Kenya and the Sengwer community has in the recent past increased and there has been the willingness to find a compromise solution,” Ambassador Mordue said.
The European Union is very keen to reengage with Kenya on environmental protection and climate resilience building under the Green Deal Initiative in the new programming period. This could offer an opportunity to capitalise on the work done under the Water Towers programme and build a freshly designed initiative that should learn from the past experiences.
The EU WaTER programme was a partnership with the Government of Kenya in the conservation of two Water Towers in the Cherengany and Mt Elgon areas. The Water Towers are natural water catchment areas, a critical water source for Kenya. It was designed to support the environmental action plans of 11 Counties in the Water Tower areas in Western Kenya. Conservation activities by the Kenya Forest Service and policy-related research by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute were also incorporated.
Over time, the programme encountered challenges following the eviction of forest dwellers and allegations of Human Rights abuses against the indigenous communities living in the project area. This had resulted in the EU’s suspension of the programme in January 2018.