What You Need to Know About
What you need to know about KAYA TSOLOKERO
The Kaya Tsolokero sacred forest is located within the Junju settlement in Kilifi County, on the southern coastal area in Kenya, north of Mombasa (Junju village, Junju area, South Kilifi sub-district, Kilifi County).
It has an area of 24.5 ha. It is surrounded by farmland and roads. The neighbouring villages are: Sirini to the east, Chidongo to the west and Kolewa to the north.
Kaya Tsolokero is treated as part of Kaya Jibana (as a sub-kaya). It is made up predominantly of members of the Chonyi tribe. The tribe mainly lives around Kaya Chonyi and Kaya Tsolokero.
The tribal diagram is shown in the diagram.
Currently, the oldest members of the Kaya Tsolokero community are Wanje Ndale Wanje (first from left in the photo below) and Charles Mwangome (in center of photo).
In honour of the three main tribes that made up Kaya Tsolokero – Chonyi, Giriam and Jiban – vigango (singular kigango) were placed in the forest. The large figures are supposed to represent men, the small ones women, their wives.
Currently Kaya Tsolokero is mainly a cultural centre. Since 2020, this place is looked after by a fifteen-person self-help group registered with the Department of Social Development of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection Republic of Kenya under the name Tsolokero Self Help Group.
Its main objective – apart from ecotourism – is to implement a project involving extensive environmental protection in the forest area.
The members of Tsolokero Self Help Group are:
– in the photo, first row from the left: guest, Nyevu C. Nguma, Sadaka A. Msanzu, Kanze Z. Duka, Kahonzi M. Duka, vip guest (MP. Kilifi South) Mr. Hon. Richard Ken Chonga, guest, guest, Chari K. Ndamba (member of the committee)
– second row from left: Anthony M. Ziro (v/secretary), Crispus M. Said (secretary), Selina J. Tunje, Josphine Ali (guest), Onesmus Gambo Karisa (chairperson), Shida J. Mwangala
Missing photo: Wanje N. Wanje (v/chairperson), Ngolo W. Ndale (treasurer), Alex W. Ndale, Charles M. Mwangome, Robert Ali (member of the committee)
The community living in the villages around Kaya Tsolokero has been planning for many years to establish a tourist centre there. The younger generation learned about their culture from the elders so that they could give guided tours. Ecotourism activities at the current location began in 2018. However, the official opening took place on 26.11.2020. This was done by the Member of Parliament (MP. Kilifi South) Mr. Hon. Richard Ken Chonga.
Guided tours, meetings with community members and learning about some of the traditions, cultures and customs of the kaya, must be organised in such a way that activities do not compromise the religious and cultural values of the sites and do not cause further damage to biodiversity. This awareness must guide not only the guides but also the tourists. Ecotourism in kaya must be conducted wisely and be carefully managed to avoid problems of further environmental degradation or damage to the sanctity of these sites.
The project, which is run by the local community, besides caring for the preservation of the natural environment and protecting the forests from devastation or clearing, involves, among other things, various works for the benefit of the community and broadly educating the younger generation e.g. by organising meetings in schools. The group is involved in beekeeping, tree planting and feeding monkeys. Members of the local community are allowed to sell their products, e.g. honey or handicrafts made of raffia, as an alternative source of income. However, all activities must ensure that the integrity of the place and its values are maintained.
To achieve its goals, the group receives support from various institutions. Below are photos from the action of planting 3000 trees, of five different species. The seedlings were funded by Equity bank. The person responsible for the implementation was volunteer Anthony (pictured).
Kaya Tsolokero has the highest proportion of dense forest in relation to the total area of all kayas (97.6%, which is 23.89 ha). The vegetation here is dense and lush, evergreen and showing a very high diversity of flora.
Ethnobotanical surveys that were conducted in 2015-2016 in sacred forests including Kaya Tsolokero, among others, showed that important indigenous plants used for food, medicine, construction, recreation and aesthetics are still found here. There are 312 of them in Kaya Tsolokero. Unfortunately, most plant species are threatened by over-harvesting, human interference and the loss of traditional knowledge about their use. These plants were once very important for food, medicine, construction, fuel, decoration, recreation, beekeeping and other industries. They were used for economic, medicinal, fodder, construction, apiary and, more importantly, medicinal purposes for the population. It was through the knowledge of ethnobotany that the survival of indigenous communities in kayas was possible. Unfortunately, this knowledge is disappearing with the passing of the older generation. For it has not been well documented, and the new generations believe more in the power of pills than natural medicine.
In the photos on the left, Indian honey tree (mkilifi tree = neem) – used, among others, in medicine (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral properties, etc.) and cosmetics – as an ingredient of soaps, shampoos, ointments, creams, toothpaste, etc. On the right, Euclea divinorum (mdaa), called diamond leaf and toothbrush tree because its roots help relieve toothache.