Aweer Community – Challenges


Lack of capacity by the local communities to advocate for their rights:

There is an ongoing project within Lamu County, LAPPSET project. The LAPPSET project was initiated by the Government of Kenya in 2009. The project involves the construction of a Standard Gauge Railway line, port, super highway, regional and international airport, ultra-modern tourist resort city, fiber optic cable and an oil pipeline. The project is meant to host a transport and communication corridor.

The corridor ought to have 32 berths. 3 are yet to be launched. The main issue that arises is that the community is yet to be consulted despite the negative impact that the project could have on the local community. The few who have been consulted are elites or the so called ‘leaders’ within the community. Negative impacts on the Aweer people include: dispossession of the lands that they occupy, erosion and/or interference with their culture and destruction of their natural habitat. The Aweer, due to systemic marginalization that have faced them lack the capacity to oppose the inception of this project without their consultation or having their needs taken into account. The project involves both local and international actors whom, without adequate capacity, the small Aweer community cannot challenge.

Block title: Land tenure issues has been an issue in the Aweer community. The land is currently registered as government land which means that the community has no rights over it despite them being the custodians of that forest for a long time. According to members of the community, getting a block title (community land title) is important so that they can defend their land rights as a community.

Recognition by government as a tribe: Currently, the Aweer are recognized as part of the Abdala community in Boni.

Poor infrastructure due to marginalization in social and economic spheres which has affected their access to roads, electricity, water and hospitals.

Human wildlife conflict:  The Buffaloes in Boni Forest cause a major destruction to the homes in the Boni Forest. Apart from that they affect women and

Illegal logging: Well-connected people are involved in logging in the forest and despite their engagement

Documentation of culture: The Aweer Culture has suffered from non-documentation and this has led to a situation where their culture is being slowly eroded.

Insecurity. The Al-Shabaab have infiltrated the Boni Forest where the Aweer people live and this has caused members of the community to move out of the forest therefore losing their areas of settlement. Their economic activities e.g. bee keeping have also been affected.

High unemployment levels within the community.

The impact of COVID – 19: Corona virus has affected many aspects of their lives including livelihoods. Most have not been able to work because of lock downs.

High poverty levels that have affected access to education

Discrimination interacting with the county government

Unfriendly policies since hunting and gathering has been prohibited by the Kenya Forest Service they are forced to resort to other methods of survival e.g. bee keeping.

Natural disasters e.g. locust invasion has also affected their ability to get access to food.

Water problems in the areas occupied by the Aweer including Pandanguo. They mainly depend on boreholes and sometimes the water is salty. The Lamu County government has tried to supply them with water but it is not enough.

Education: Access to education is one of the major challenges facing the Aweer people. Part of it is caused by high poverty levels as well as the negative impact of COVID-19 that has made the situation worse.  Al-Shabaab extremists within the region are also causing teachers not to go in the region leaving young people in Aweer in a state of perpetual illiteracy. This continues the cycle of poverty among them.

Lack of political representation: Bargaining power in Kenya is partly influenced by communities that are well represented in the national government. Since the Aweer people have not been elected in mainstream politics, their ability to advocate for themselves has been hindered by this fact and consequently, they have been left out in terms of development.

Absence of news coverage for the people of Aweer. Despite the ongoing violations of the rights of the Aweer, the attention that the media has paid to their issues is very little. This has led to a situation where the Aweer suffer in silence without anyone coming to their aid out of lack of knowledge for what they are going through.