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Kenya: Mount Elgon

Mount Elgon is a dormant volcano that straddles the border between Kenya and Uganda. These oral testimonies were gathered from the district’s upper and lower slopes.

Our partners Interlink Rural Information Service (IRIS) and the Kenya Oral Literature Association (KOLA) coordinated the testimony collection in Mount Elgon. Given the area’s relative fertility, people’s concerns were less about the environment, and more about poor access to markets and development facilities, and political marginalisation.

The narrators talk of the changes affecting their society; the tension between preserving a strong cultural identity yet being open to learning from others is a common theme. KOLA published two KiSabaot books based on the testimonies which, being some of the first publications in the Sabaot language, are now being used by local schools and literacy groups.

“…when it comes to the sharing of the national cake, nobody remembers us…Our location in a mountainous region can be an excuse to deny us development, but it does not convince anybody.”
Moses, male, 36 years, teacher

“The Sabaot also want good roads constructed for them because these days we are farmers but we’ve no roads for taking our produce to markets.”
Masai, male, 57 years, retired primary school teacher

“What I wanted to mention also about the caves and the mountains, and those unique places, is that the most unique places in Mount Elgon are very specific areas which people adore and worship…. Our people worship God and they have associated some of the places with God.”
Wycliffe, male, 37 years, schools inspector

“[People] sent children to school so that they can get employment and be good future leaders. We also need future leaders apart from providing them with employment so that our district advances since we are very much behind. If we are not going to take more children to school, we are also going to continue being underdeveloped. At the moment, there are very many schools being built so that we are not among the last developed in the country.”
Lydia, female, 24 years, teacher