Integrating Indigenous Knowledge in Adult Environmental Education through the ODL Strategies for Sustainable Conservation of Mau Forest, Kenya: The Ogiek Experience

  • TK Ronoh
  • FS Barasa


In Kenya, environmental degradation has occurred at an alarming rate in areas such as the Mau Forest, the home of the majority of the Ogiek people. Traditionally, the Ogiek are hunter-gatherers and have distinctive histories of interaction with the natural environment. But, they have been increasingly rendered homeless through appropriation of parts of the Mau Forest for other uses since the colonial periods. Mau Forest is located in the Rift Valley Province and straddles Kericho, Nakuru, Narok and Bomet districts. Over the years, the Ogiek have inhabited the Mau Forest with little impact on the environment. This paper critically examines the integration of Ogiek’s Indigenous Knowledge in Adult Environmental Education through ODL Strategies for Sustainable Conservation of Mau Forest in Kenya. An ethno-historical approach was employed in the design, instrumentation, data collection, analysis and interpretation. To achieve systematic collection of data, purposive sampling techniques were used. Forty-five members of the Ogiek community, mainly cultural consultants, were interviewed for the study. Cultural consultants provided the most complete and representative information about particular aspects of Ogiek life because of their experience and training. The main instruments for data collection were observation and interview schedules. In addition to oral interviews, this study used a variety of documentary sources. The information obtained from the various sources was checked for validity and reliability using triangulation as well as external and internal criticism approaches to data analysis.. The paper acknowledges that integrating indigenous knowledge and technology–based knowledge would yield a better understanding of the interaction between human beings and nature into open and distance adult learning programmes, thereby imperatively noting that the Ogiek people who have been constantly rendered vulnerable, have a special authority and competence in protecting their own environment since pre-colonial times. The Ogiek society facilitated intergenerational kinship ties and raised Awareness on the need to conserve Mau Forest ecosystem for their sustainable livelihood. Accordingly, the council of elders contends that they had a holistic understanding of their bio-physical environment and had the sole responsibility to define the best options of improving Conservation of Mau Forest complex’s watershed including its rich biodiversity of animals and plant species. The results further reveal that education for environmental Sustainability should be a life long process based on ODL mode so that ecological problems should be effectively addressed within a socio-economic, political and cultural context. In essence, the provision of learning opportunities for all, including, the unreached and the excluded (Ogiek) is the most urgent concern so as to realize an all inclusive integration and synthesis of the two knowledge systems for effective environmental action. It is hoped that the research findings will be useful to policy makers in such fields as education and environmental conservation on the need for the integration of indigenous knowledge systems into modern environmental management through ODL strategies highlighted thereof.

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eISSN: 0856-6739