Sacred groves (kibaga) of Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya
Ogol, Callistus KP.O.
Ogola, Patrick O.
Beatrice Khayota, Beatrice
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A questionnaire method was used to obtain information about the sacred groves and identity of other protected and sacred plants ofMfangano Island. Some 36 sacred groves, locally known in the Suba language as Kibaga, were reported to have existed on Mfangano Island, of which some 19 still exist, and the other 17 were described as extinct. From the existing groves, 12 were identified as threatened with 7 being intact. They ranged in size from 30m2 , represented by a tree, while the largest was a forest patch covering approximately 15,000m2 (1.5 Ha.). Three broad classes of sacred groves were recognized: burial sites for elders, homesteads of pioneer immigrants, and leprosy victim burial grounds. Each clan is associated with a set of groves whose protection is the. responsibility of its members. Threats to the groves are mostly anthropogenic in nature, and include vegetation clearing for homesteads, agriculture, forest products and other developments. Furthermore, modem Christian faith and educational ideals conflict with these traditional beliefs, further endangering these groves. Several plant species, particularly trees, are considered special and are accorded differential treatment, based on their socio-cultural or utilitarian value. Using some of these for building or firewood is considered a taboo, a status that has provided such species protection.The study has demonstrated that the people of Mfangano have a good traditional ecological knowledge for natural resource use and conservation.