Towards a Biocultural Heritage Territory in Rabai Cultural Landscape: exploring Mijikenda cultural values and practices for sustainable development
Biocultural Heritage Territories (BCHTs) are mosaics of land uses, deeply linked to Indigenous knowledge systems embedded in cultural traditions, where Indigenous knowledge and practices effectively combine food production with sustainable development, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem protection.
Although Indigenous Peoples have been living sustainably for generations, few studies have explored the role of different elements of cultural heritage, and their links with biodiversity, in promoting sustainable development. This study was conducted as part of the project ‘Indigenous biocultural heritage for sustainable development’ (2018–21), funded by the Sustainable Development Programme of the British Academy. The project involved case studies in China, India, Peru and Kenya, and had two main objectives:
- Catalysing establishment of BCHTs for sustainable development, and
- Enhancing understanding of the role of biocultural heritage in addressing the Sustainable Development Goals.
This case study in Kenya was conducted with the Rabai sub-tribe of the Mijikenda Indigenous community in Kilifi County, coastal Kenya. It was coordinated by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), working closely with the Rabai community.
The study found that protecting the local Kaya Forest was deeply entrenched in Mijikenda culture and this attitude extends beyond the Kaya as well. The study also makes recommendations that infrastructure development projects recognise Rabai as a protected biocultural landscape and respects Indigenous rights. It also argues that supporting community led decolonising action research is vital for successful establishment of a BCHT.