Kaya elders meet to discuss COVID-19 preparedness while preserving heritage

Kaya elders together with officials from the Kenya National Commision for UNESCO(KNATCOM) in a group photo during a workshop on Kaya preparedness during this Covid-19 pandemic. | PHOTO BY Ramadhan Kambi
Kaya elders together with officials from the Kenya National Commision for UNESCO(KNATCOM) in a group photo during a workshop on Kaya preparedness during this Covid-19 pandemic. | PHOTO BY Ramadhan Kambi

Kaya elders’ drawn from different areas in Kilifi county have converged for a three day workshop at a hotel in Malindi to discuss kaya preparedness during the Covid-19 pandemic. – By Ramadhan Kambi.

The workshop organized by The Kenya National Commission for UNESCO (KNATCOM) is meant to give the elders a platform to share their experience in effective practical interventions to safeguard and conserve heritage of the Mijikenda during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Speaking in interview at the Breese point hotel in Malindi where the conference is taking place, acting director of culture at KNATCOM Julius Mwahunga said the workshop brought the 30 elders and among them were men, women and youths. 

“The workshop has two objectives, the first one being to share experiences of effective practical interventions to safeguard and conserve heritage of the Mijikenda during the Corona pandemic. 

The second agenda is to share conservation and safeguarding reports from each of the nine Kayas of the Mijikenda on activities taken over the last two years,” he said. 

“The worship will also root for the recommend best practices in the conservation and safeguard of heritage during the COVID -19 period,” he added. 

Among those who attended the workshop is the Chair of the KNATCOM Board, Dr Misigo Amatsimbi and the Secretary General Dr Evangeline Njoka. 

The elders attending the workshop are from Kaya Kaya Chonyi, Kaya Fungo Giriama, Kaya Dzihana, Kaya Ribe, Kaya Rabai, Kaya Kauma, Kambe from Kilifi and Kaya Gandini, Mtswakara and Kaya Kinondo from Kwale County. 

The elders vowed to continue protecting the Kaya forests and also put in measures to make sure that they are safe during this pandemic. 

“We know that we have to play a crucial role in protecting these forests as they are key to our cultural diversity.  

Because these Kayas also receive visitors, we have put in measures to make sure that all visitors adhere to the laid down ministry of health protocols on Covid-19, said one of the elders in attendance. 

The Kaya sacred forests of the Mijikenda are listed as World Heritage sites due to their Outstanding Universal Value. The listing of the Kayas under the 1972 UNESCO Convention and the inscription of their living heritage under the 2003 UNESCO convention places them as a unique cultural forests in the whole world. The Kaya forests are botanical diverse and have a high conservation value.   

This dual protection under the conventions has led to increased awareness and more concerted efforts to restore the value of this heritage.