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This is My Backyard - documenting and resolving tenure conflicts in Kenya.

We are providing the indigenous Sengwer community with reporting tools to safely document evictions and work towards a peaceful resolution.

Photo of Anjali Nayar
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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Although the Sengwer have suffered evictions since the 1970s, the situation has worsened in recent years. The resumption of forced evictions in 2014 has resulted in death, arrests, injury and loss/destruction of housing. This has caused associated issues such as school dropouts, increased disease due to poor living conditions and culture loss (Sengwer culture is rooted in their ancestral lands).

The Sengwer’s biggest assets are (a) existing efforts to document abuses (through testimony/photos) and (b) they are non-violent in their lobby for their ancestral lands. These strengths are central to our idea’s design: (a) we want to make their documentation more effective (geo-stamped, permissible in courts) and safe (through encryption and training), and (b) we want to use the possibility of evidence-based diplomacy to resolve long-standing gaps in communication between groups. To this end, we’ve engaged with government officials, the Sengwer’s legal representation and other NGOs.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

Historical land injustices are one of the main sources of conflict in Kenya. Many communities — particularly indigenous forest-dwelling communities like the Sengwer — were left out during the systemization of the land tenure system in Kenya and thus are at constant risk of being displaced. Without a title deed to their land, the Sengwer have faced evictions and their lands remain at risk of being cordoned off in relation to World Bank and EU-funded conservation projects (https://bit.ly/2FIIdHP).

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

The Sengwer and the government share an interest in protecting the forest from illegal logging. The problem rests with poor communication and lack of documentation to prevent cyclical violence by new governments/donors. All stakeholders relate that dialogue and documentation, including evidence of Sengwer land (community maps/allotment letters) and new arrivals in the forest, evidence of KFS evictions and documentation of court decisions has never been done and would help immeasurably.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

The Sengwer will own a growing database about their lands -- maps, evictions and court rulings. This information will (with our support) be shared with the government and foreign funders to increase transparency and effective dialogue, with an aim of stopping the cycle of violence. The system will be running by month 4-5. By the end of the grant, we will have completed the heavy lifting of training reporters/building the database, at which point FPP/TIMBY will ensure sustainability.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Based on Sengwer feedback, we have upgraded TIMBY: (a) icon/colour interface for low literacy, (b) offline functionality, (c) Swahili system/manuals, (e) additional safety features and (f) offline maps. Additional elements in progress based stakeholder feedback (NGOs, government) include (h) solar panels/battery packs, (i) mapping support/ tracking families and new arrivals, (j) TIMBY PDF outputs for Kenyan courts and (k) integration of government priorities.

The Expert Phase encouraged us to engage multiple levels of government to understand pain points, nuances and points of commonality (preservation of forests). These conversations ensured we involved government in (a) the co-creation phase, (b) mapping exercises and (c) tracking families (including historical data). How, when and how much information is shared will be decided together. The feedback also helped us contemplate scaling this work across Kenya where land issues are a main source of conflict/environmental degradation.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

See GANTT chart for details.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

The idea will be implemented by a partnership as illustrated. Elias Kimaiyo, a leader in the Sengwer Community (more: https://bit.ly/2MM9TxY), is responsible for managing community reporters and the project manager. TIMBY will lead the design and co-creation workshops, trainings and iterate on the TIMBY technology for the project. FPP will lead the mapping, legal work and strategic community support for the project. Both TIMBY and FPP will develop relations with the project’s key partners.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

The TIMBY platform already exists, so expenses are direct implementation costs. BridgeBuilder will support: (a) trainings and design workshops, (b) in-county stakeholder engagement workshops (c) a GIS community-mapping exercise of ancestral lands (d) transport and collections of reports from offline areas, (e) smartphones and solar/battery packs (f) data for uploads for the community reporters, (g) the project manager/trainer, (h) modifications and maintenance of TIMBY to suit Sengwer needs.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1. We engaged the government during the Beneficiary feedback phase (including interviews with the former MP that witnessed the last round of Sengwer evictions). Those we spoke to seemed genuinely interested in the project and what it could achieve in terms of evidence-based dialogue. We would like to keep this process productive. What pitfalls are we likely to encounter, what suggestions do you have for us moving forward?

2. As part of customizing TIMBY to the Sengwer’s lawyers’ needs, we endeavour to ensure TIMBY’s PDF outputs are court permissible in Kenya. However, this output is very specific (for this use-case). We’d like to ensure this functionality can scale to make TIMBY useful for land tenure issues across Africa (at a minimum). If there are legal experts on your team, we would love to better understand whether it is possible to meet the needs of multiple countries without losing the specificity needed for Kenya.

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Based on Sengwer feedback, we have upgraded TIMBY: (a) icon/colour interface for low literacy, (b) offline functionality, (c) Swahili system/manuals, (e) additional safety features and (f) offline maps. Additional elements in progress based stakeholder feedback (NGOs, government) include (h) solar panels/battery packs, (i) mapping support/ tracking families and new arrivals, (j) TIMBY PDF outputs for Kenyan courts and (k) integration of government priorities.

The Expert Phase encouraged us to engage multiple levels of government to understand pain points, nuances and points of commonality (preservation of forests). These conversations ensured we involved government in (a) the co-creation phase, (b) mapping exercises and (c) tracking families (including historical data). How, when and how much information is shared will be decided together. The feedback also helped us contemplate scaling this work across Kenya where land issues are a main source of conflict/environmental degradation.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

Anticipated Outcomes:
1. Improved evidence-based dialogue between stakeholders (including the Sengwer, paralegals, the government and NGOs).
2. Improved documentation of evictions against the Sengwer and community interactions with the Kenyan Forestry Service.
3. Improved monitoring of illegal deforestation through a collaboration between the Sengwer and KFS.
4. A living map detailing: land that is ancestrally important to the Sengwer, current families, new arrivals and how their imprint on the land is changing over time.
5. Decreased threat of conflict and harm to the Sengwer.
6. Increased protection of Embobut Forest.


Project Activities:

1. Engagement sessions will be conducted with the Sengwer community, NGOs and government officials for preliminary research and understanding, and to encourage their participation in the project. Any additional needs will also be identified at this time. Private meetings with key government officials will be conducted over the course of the project in an effort to secure their support for the project and have their needs reflected in the project’s design.

2. TIMBY and the Forest Peoples Programme will bring together these groups in a co-creation session with Sengwer, members of government, paralegals and NGOs, to collaboratively identify needs and pain points in the Sengwer-government relationship. The collaboration will help design a custom TIMBY platform, terms of engagement and a plan/MoU for moving forward (what information should be collected, how it will be shared, etc.).

3. FPP and TIMBY will host technical and safety training sessions for the Sengwer for documenting forced evictions, their interactions with government and for monitoring harm to the Embobut Forest (e.g. illegal logging). Additional trainings will be held for other stakeholders including the KFS, as needed.

4. FPP and TIMBY will host a series of community meetings with the Sengwer to identify the land that they occupy, who it is occupied by, and what it is used for. Alongside representatives of the Sengwer and neighboring communities, the government, the KFS and NGO partners, the group will use a GPS-tracking tool to map the boundaries of Sengwer land, transform it into a custom layer using GIS software, and import it into TIMBY. Community reporters will also use TIMBY to document the houses of each Sengwer family residing within Embobut by taking pictures of them and generating a custom ID reference. This will be confirmed with satellite imagery, where possible. The map will be updated with any changes to occupancy of Sengwer land, including new arrivals and will be made available to government (with permission of community). Where possible, historical databases and maps of Sengwer land will also be added to the TIMBY system.

5. The Sengwer will use TIMBY to document their interactions with KFS, including any forced evictions that occur. Together with KFS, the Sengwer will document threats to Embobut Forest such as illegal logging, and make that information available to KFS for follow-up. Throughout the project, TIMBY, FPP and the project manager will meet regularly with government officials to secure their support for the project, update them on developments, and encourage their participation in the process.

6. Once community reporters are comfortable and the reporting phase has stabilized, Elias, the TIMBY project manager and current Sengwer community reporters will conduct trainings for additional community reporters. Costs for these additional reporters will be minimal.

7. The challenges facing the Sengwer are not unique. Many indigenous groups across Kenya face similar issues, including the Ogiek living in the nearby Mau Forest. With land being one of the primary drivers of conflict in Kenya, there is considerable need for replication of this type of project to reduce conflict with indigenous groups across the country.

8. Historical land injustices are one of the major drivers of conflict in Kenya. If successful, our unique approach of user-based design, technology, mapping and mediation/dialogue, could help shift age-old issues into mediation processes that are actionable and could be replicated across the country -- to similar issues in the Mau Forest and beyond. Our goal is to make TIMBY commonplace, and easily available to support historical documentation and conversation to prevent conflict, promote prosperity and preserve our planet.


For a full description of the TIMBY tools, please see the technical documentation available as a PDF attached to this application.

Note that you may also edit any of your previous answers within the proposal. Here is a great place to note any big final changes or iterations you have made to your proposal below:

In response to feedback we received during the Expert Feedback Phase as well as from community coaches and the rest of the OpenIDEO community, we have significantly increased the weight we have placed on engaging government as part of this BridgeBuilder challenge.

Over the course of the past four weeks, we have been in contact with multiple levels of government to better understand the history, pain points and nuances of the conflict over Embobut forest. As a result of these discussions, we’ve included government in the preliminary research phase and subsequent (a) co-creation sessions, (b) mapping exercises for ancestral lands and Sengwer families (both historical and present day), and (c) information sharing on the TIMBY dashboard. The nature of information sharing (what level of access government employees will get) will be determined during the co-creation sessions. Finally, we’ve added several engagement sessions a year to ensure these groups meet regularly to discuss any issues before communication breaks down.

We’ve also put greater emphasis on a collaborative monitoring of illegal forestry (using the same TIMBY App). Both the Sengwer and the KFS could together document threats to the forest – it is an area where their goals and interests are aligned, and could help improve their relationship and trust.

A final change to this proposal is an increase in emphasis on mapping Sengwer land (and its inhabitants). All stakeholders have stressed the importance of understanding which lands are ancestrally important to the Sengwer, and how their imprint on the land is changing over time. The government has had a very difficult time determining who is indigenous to the area and ensuring compensation schemes go to the correct families. Mapping would not only help the Sengwer assert their presence in a formal exercise but also help the government track compensation schemes if agreed upon.

Because of these additions, we’ve engaged with and included government staff and mapping experts at the Rainforest Foundation US to our application team. At this time (because of the sensitivity of the issue), we aren’t able to put the names of politicians into our application online, but we’d be happy to discuss our government collaborators with the IDEO team in private.

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The Sengwer are an indigenous forest-dependent community in the Cherangany Hills of Kenya. They have faced evictions since the 1980s, however this intensified in 2014 following a government decision to relocate people residing in the forest to make way for an EU-funded climate project. Since then, the Sengwer have been subjected to forced – and often violent – evictions at the hands of the Kenyan Forestry Service (KFS). The government and the Sengwer disagree on the inclusivity of past conversations, agreements and compensation; understanding is required on all sides for peace, prosperity of all, and for the benefit of our planet. Our project will work to bridge the communication gap between stakeholders and chip away at one of the longest-standing conflicts over land in Kenya.

Core to the process are the suite of TIMBY (timby.org) tools – piloted in Liberia and now in 25 countries – to help bring together stakeholders, and in particular, ensure that the Sengwer are part of the discussions about what happens to their ancestral lands. The secure reporting app will enable stakeholders to take geo-referenced media reports and upload them to a web-based dashboard, where the information is available to share with a board of stakeholders helping mediate the issue. The Sengwer will be equipped with TIMBY to map their ancestral lands as well as document their interactions with the KFS. Both the KFS and Sengwer will use the system to document illegal logging, and the Sengwer and government will use the system to map family movement and new arrivals for compensation schemes. Beyond first-person evidence, the system will archive testimonials and court cases. All this material will be available for dialogue sessions between the stakeholders on a quarterly basis. Success of this project would mean improvement of Sengwer-government relations and a draft plan for the future. After the project term, TIMBY will be maintained at a minimal level to ensure communication continues.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The main beneficiaries of this project are the 3000 indigenous Sengwer who face forced evictions from their ancestral lands in the Embobut Forest (Kapkok, Kaptirbai, Koropkwen) in the Cherangany Hills. The Sengwer’s right to their land is protected under the Constitution of Kenya as well as by international human rights law, however because Embobut was designated a protected public forest in 1954, their tenure is not recognized.

The government is a secondary beneficiary to our project. The government has identified several areas where they need assistance to ensure faith in their diplomacy, with respect to consultations and compensation, including: (a) maps of community tenure, (b) documentation for Sengwer living in the area, (c) an ability to track new arrivals, (d) an ability to track payments. Altogether they want to ensure compensation goes to the correct people and is transparent. They will also benefit from regular reports of any unauthorized or violent evictions by the KFS.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Crowd-sourcing information has become a hot concept. These systems can work well for short-term issues such as elections violence but they don’t work well for risky or long-term land reporting. For one, there is a high risk of reporting and form-based collection systems are often traceable. At TIMBY, we have layers of encryption and to ensure that evidence is verifiable but that our users can maintain anonymity.

Another reason that open systems fail is that the data can be difficult to compare and collate over long periods of time. Built-in to the TIMBY process is an entire dashboard to help users search through reports for the trends in data but also easily drag and drop them into narratives for maximum impact.

Finally technologies fail in the Global South because they were built in the Global North under very different conditions; they don’t consider limitations of connectivity/digital literacy. TIMBY was designed iteratively, around the needs of grassroots organizations.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

TIMBY is the Nairobi and Montreal-based collaboration dedicated to designing impactful solutions that allow local communities and organizations to document and address the issues within their “backyards.” For more information please see https://timby.org/

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

TIMBY’s founder, Anjali Nayar was an environmental journalist for over a decade. During this time, resource issues – such as land grabbing – cropped up in her copy again and again. She always questioned why the majority of environmental reporting happened after the damage had been done -- it turned out affected communities were aware of issues but didn’t have a way to meaningfully participate in policy conversations. TIMBY was created in collaboration with grassroots groups for this purpose.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

This project bridges Peace, Prosperity and Planet. The Sengwer, like many indigenous communities, are heavily reliant on their land for their livelihoods, including gathering medicinal plants, honey, plants, as well as for their cows, and construction of their homes. Recent efforts to promote forest conservation through evictions of indigenous communities from their ancestral forests, including the Sengwer, have been undertaken without the consultation of communities. These actions have sparked conflict and the resulting insecurity has led to the loss of property, livelihood and a decline into poverty for the Sengwer. Improving communication and transparency is key to reducing these conflicts. It may also pay dividends to the planet. There is evidence to suggest that forest-dwelling indigenous communities with strong land tenure are good custodians of the forest. Strengthening dialogue between the Sengwer and the government will help build peace and prosperity and enhance conservation.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

The main partners are the Sengwer community, the TIMBY (This is My Backyard) team of designers, technologists, activists and security experts, and the Forest Peoples Programme (please see organizational chart). Secondary partners include community paralegal organizations, the Rainforest Foundation US (for mapping), the Kenyan Government and the Kenya Forest Service.

The Sengwer are at the center of our project and its design; the technology and support infrastructure will be designed iteratively based on their needs. The co-creation sessions with all partners will help to refine the overarching goals, determine plans to ensure the project’s success, and identify risks or challenges we may face in implementation. Workshops and sessions will be conducted both in the Sengwer community but also regional and national hubs, for maximum participation from stakeholders and government partners. We will encourage 50% participation of women and other under-represented voices in our project.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Despite the harm resulting from forced evictions, the Sengwer have remained non-violent. This willingness to remain peaceful while refusing to give up on their claim to their ancestral lands will be crucial for ongoing negotiations. The Sengwer have also leveraged evidence-based documentation and have had a base level of engagement with TIMBY, which will help this project overcome some anticipated hurdles in introducing forest-dwelling communities to technology projects.

Geographic Focus

The Sengwer community residing in and around the Embobut Forest in Elgeyo Marakwet County, Kenya.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

This project will be implemented over the course of eighteen months.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

Attachments (1)

TIMBY tools.pdf

See here for full description of the TIMBY tools referenced in this application

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Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Congratulations Anjali Nayar for being one of the top ideas. It was really nice working with you for this challenge.

Photo of Anjali Nayar
Team

Thanks again Isaac Jumba for all of your help! We really appreciate it.

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