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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.

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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. In April 2017, a community member was monitoring evictions and was arrested and assaulted, and in January this year, another Sengwer was shot and killed by guards working for the Kenya Forestry Service.
The Sengwer’s biggest assets are that (a) documentation of abuses (through testimony and now photographic evidence) is central to their process 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, time-stamped, permissible in courts, through training) and safe (through encryption and security training), and (b) we want to use the possibility of evidence-based dialogue and diplomacy to resolve long standing gaps in communication between groups. To this extent, we’ve started to engage with government officials through the User Experience exercise.

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)

Land and specifically 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. The Sengwer have also faced evictions and their lands are at risk of being cordoned off, in relation to World Bank and European Union-funded conservation projects (

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)

Conservationists, the government and lawyers have said dialogue would be aided by evidence-based documentation of (a) Sengwer lands (community maps if no allotment letters) and (b) KFS-led evictions. They expressed a need for a repository so that decisions could be referenced, preventing future governments/projects from making the same mistakes. We aim to achieve this through our mobile app (data collection), dashboard (repository), content tool (communications) and facilitation of dialogue.

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 of evidence about their lands (community-made maps), evictions and court rulings. This information will (with FPP/TIMBY support) be shared with concerned groups to increase effective dialogue and stop the cycle of violence. The database and dialogue will be up and running by month 4-5. By the end ofBridgebuilder, the heavy lifting of training reporters and building the database will be done, 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)

Our idea is rooted in the Sengwer’s feedback during our ongoing unfinanced pilot (lack of financing prevented on-the-ground training, legal support and meetings with government – these will be priorities of this project).
We have already modified TIMBY for the Sengwer: (a) icon-heavy and colour based interface for low literacy, (b) offline functionality, (c) full Swahili system, (e) encryption.
This new user map shows the need for: (e) solar panels/batteries for areas without electricity, (f) offline maps on the app to report with spatial awareness (we developed this in the last two weeks).
We extended the idea of beneficiary to other stakeholders (lawyers, NGOs, the government) to better consider their needs. This includes: (a) modifying the TIMBY PDF outputs so they are permissible in court in Kenya (lawyers), (b) ensuring mapping of community land/families where allotment certificates aren’t available (government), (c) permissions for journalists that can pressure policy (NGOs).

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:, 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: the trainer/project manager; in-county workshops and dialogue with concerned groups; a GIS community-mapping exercise of ancestral lands; transport and collections of reports from offline areas; updated devices including solar panels and battery packs; data for uploads for the community reporters; modifications/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.

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The Sengwer are an indigenous forest-dependent community predominantly found in the Cherangany Hills in Kenya. The Sengwer have faced evictions since the 1980s, however this intensified in 2013 following the Government of Kenya’s decision to relocate and resettle people residing in the Embobut Forest as part of an EU-funded climate project. Since then, the Sengwer have been subjected to forced – and often violent – evictions and human rights abuses at the hands of the Kenyan Forestry Service. Communication has broken down between the Sengwer, the Kenyan Government and conservationists, leading to longstanding and violent disputes. Understanding is required on all sides for peace, the prosperity of all, and for the benefit of our planet. Our project will work to bridge the communication gap between all stakeholders and chip away at one of the longest-standing conflicts over land in Kenya.

Core to the process are the suite of TIMBY ( tools – piloted in Liberia and now active 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 Sengwer will be equipped with an easy-to-use secure smartphone-based reporting tool both to map their areas of importance as well as document their interactions (positive and negative) with the Kenya Forest Service to ensure that meetings, initiatives and more are conducted in a transparent way that can be followed-up on. Beyond collecting first-person evidence, the system will also be used to document testimonials and ongoing court cases on the issue, to ensure a well-rounded understanding of the issue for all parties.

This tool will enable the community to take geo-referenced images, video and audio reports and easily upload them to a web-based dashboard, where the information is available to verify and share with a board of organizations, policy makers, governors and paralegals helping mediate the issue.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries (users) are members of the indigenous Sengwer community who are facing forced evictions from their ancestral lands in the Embobut Forest in the Cherangany Hills in Kenya. There is a strong need for rigorous documentation to help ensure that the voice of the Sengwer is heard in policy discussions surrounding the land in question and to build understanding between parties in the hopes of compromise. Using TIMBY, the Sengwer will be able to generate non-refutable geo-referenced and time-stamped evidence but they will also be privy in getting top-down information about the larger policy-decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods. The Sengwer and stakeholders (including paralegal groups, NGOs, and the Kenya Forestry Service) will benefit from a greater understanding of conditions on the ground. It will further create a space for the Sengwer to participate in policy discussions surrounding their own land and control the narrative around the issues that affect them.

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

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 community – the Sengwer – are at the center of our project and design. From the beginning of the project, we will design (and iterate) with the Sengwer through co-creation sessions. The technology and support system is based on the needs of the community and stakeholders. In this case, the main partners on the project are the Sengwer Community, the TIMBY collaboration, the Forest Peoples Programme, local and international paralegal groups and the Kenyan Government.

Our co-creation sessions help to refine specific goals within the overarching goals, determine plans to ensure the project’s success, and identify risks or challenges we may face in implementation. The sessions will be conducted both in the Sengwer community but also regional and national hubs, for maximum participation from stakeholders and partners. We will strongly encourage 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)

The Sengwer community has remained non-violent even in the face of intense and murderous provocation. Recently, when community members were badly wounded by KFS guards, they allowed all the KFS guards to leave with their weapons before burning the guard post down in protest. This willingness to remain peaceful while refusing to give up on their claim to their ancestral lands, lands that Article 63 of the Constitution of Kenya effectively recognizes as theirs, is a huge strength.

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

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Photo of pederbukavu null

bonne idée vraiment.

Photo of Anjali Nayar

Merci Pederbukavu!

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