Kenya is home to many sacred natural sites, including forests, mountains and rivers. Indigenous communities have upheld their role and responsibilities, passed down over centuries by their ancestors as custodians of these places through time. The 5391 hectares in the Nyambene forest in central Kenya is a sacred site to the Ameru people, a community/tribe living on the northeastern slopes of Mt. Kenya. The forest is a resource from which customs, spiritual practices, and governance systems are derived to protect the territory as a whole and maintain its order, integrity and well-being. The Njuri Ncheke (council of elders) play a vital role in upholding the traditional ecological knowledge and customs, practised over generations, including acting as custodians of sacred groves around which rain-making rituals are performed. This paper examines the link between traditional custodianship and community livelihoods against a background of diverse national legislations on forest/land use management and religious influences. The author demonstrates how this forest weaves around the lives of the Ameru people and makes a case for the need to encourage community participation and traditional custodianship in protecting ecosystems and their associated cultural heritage.
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