There are efforts to spearhead the IICA (Involvement, Collaboration and Accountability Environmental Conservation) canons to ensure effective governance of sacred forests. The canons address forests conservation threats caused by environmental governance systems failures.
To remedy these failures, a report on governance system for sacred forests undertaken by myself with Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies, University of Nairobi, November 2016, established need to mainstream gender as key element for effective governance of forests.
The report proposes a hybrid environmental system that reconciles both indigenous and modern governance for effective conservation of sacred forests. The new system addresses the gaps in Participatory Forest Management (PFM) and indigenous form of governance system.
PFM is a modern form of environmental governance whereas the indigenous governance system, represented by taboos, ritual, beliefs, fines, and sacrifices among other indigenous practices support governance of the forests.
Consequently, the reconciliation of both systems derived the IICA canons. Hybrid governance system ascertained the necessity to mainstream gender as a key element to build sustainable environmental conservation policy framework. Environmental actors including women, young people and institutions should be incorporated in conservation of forests agenda.
The November 2016 report depict positive impacts realised by integrating, involving, collaborating and holding accountable the different stakeholders in conservation of forests. The report assesses the extent and patterns and causes of loss of sacred forests in relation to gender and indicates the importance of community inclusion in management of forests and conservation strategies.
Local and indigenous communities may have a better understanding of sacred forests conservation since they are the main custodians hence the need to mainstream them in the affairs of the forests.
The report referenced a case where the Kaya elders on whom the power to govern the Kayas is vested have a lot of knowledge on how sacred forests should be governed in accordance with the Mijikenda customs.
The Mijikenda who are the custodians of the forests have taken responsibility of reviving and strengthening their customary governance systems to protect the forests. Kayas have activities assigned to various stakeholders such as the women and youth roles in the management of the forests.
Effective environmental governance system cautiously apportion each stakeholder involved in governance of sacred forests clear scalar actions. Environmental governance decision making at sacred forests is facilitated at the sub-national and local levels.
Environmental governance effectiveness is achieved in a spatial scale of governance that enhances participation of stakeholders. Gender mainstreaming is, therefore, an essential element that should form part of policy framework for forest conservation. —The writer is an environmental governance expert — [email protected]