Dynamics of environmental perceptions: implications on the Mijikenda muslims in Coast province, Kenya
Nyaga, Stephen Njoka
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The study sought to examine dynamics of environmental perce tions and its implications on the Mijikenda Muslims in Coast Province. It shows that change in people's environmental perception influences the way they carry out their socio-economic activities and respond to ideals of sustainable development. The study is guided by Islamic paradigm of al-tanmiyah almustadamah, which underlines appropriate response of Muslims to indigenous environmental norms and contem porary environmental policies. The main aims of the study were to analyze indigenous Mijikenda environmental norms and basic ideals of sustainable development in Islamic environmental principles and environmental policies in Kenya. It further aimed at examining the phenomena of concurrence and conflicts of indigenous Mijikenda environmental norms with Islamic environmental principles and environmental policies in Kenya; and assess impediments to sustainable socio-economic development particularly those related to change in environmental perceptions, and ultimately recommend viable interventions from Islamic perspective. This study is based on qualitative data from primary and secondary sources. Primary data was collected through individual interviews, focus group discussions (FGDs) and personal observations while secondary data was obtained through library research. Qualitative methods of data analysis and presentation were used. This entailed transcription of the oral information recorded in cassette tapes, classifying and summarizing field notes and responses in the questionnaires. Concrete responses in the questionnaires were subjected to descriptive statistics making it possible to have illustrative tables, charts, graphs and diagrams to depict some trends of the findings. This was done to enhance qualitative analysis and presentation. Primary and secondary data were then synthesized and thematized according to the objectives and chapters of this work. The thesis has six chapters. Chapter One is a general introduction. It underlines the maim issues being investigated, the conceptual framework and research methods as noted above. The chapter also shows research premises, rationale of the study and literature reviewed in relation to this study. The results and discussion of major findings begins with examination of indigenous Mijikenda environmental norms, Islamic environmental principles and environmental policies in Kenya in Chapter Two. Analysis of indigenous Mijikenda environmental norms exemplifies restrictions of utilization of resources like water, flora, fauna, marine life and soils. These are founded on belief in mystical powers, magic, curses and taboos, which shaped people's environmental perspectives. Chapter two also highlights Islamic environmental principles on sustainable utilization of resources like water, flora, fauna, marine life, minerals and soils. These principles underline obligations of all Muslims as Allah's khalifah (stewards of environment) and are disseminated in religious institutions like mosques, madrassah and other socio-religious organizations. It further explores environmental policies in National Environmental Management Co-ordination Act (NEMCA). NEMCA provides all citizens with locus standi to prosecute anybody who contravenes environmental statutes on sustainable development. Chapter Three elucidates phenomena of concurrence and conflicts among indigenous environmental norms, Islamic principles and contemporary economic and environmental policies. Dimensions of concurrence provide the basis of harmonization of the three perspectives among the Mijikenda Muslims. Dimensions of conflicts pose impediments to sustainable socio-economic development and environmental conservation. In this regard, most conflicts are founded on differences in foundations of environmental regulations/ principles. They include Islamic abomination of indigenous religious beliefs, norms and environmental concepts. Ironically, NEMCA upholds propagation of such beliefs and concepts but does not recognize Islamic environmental principles and the role of Muslim institutions in disseminating environmental education. The findings show that conflicts in the three perspectives inhibit sustainable development among Mijikenda Muslims. Regarding the impact of change in environmental perceptions discussed in Chapter Four, the study shows that the Mijikenda have experienced different political, economic and socioreligious changes. These have corporately re-orientated or changed their environmental perceptions. The aspects contributing to some changes include exposure to commercial activities of trade in different agricultural, flora and fauna products during the Portuguese and Oman Arab regimes in Coastal towns spanning the 16th to 18th centuries; colonial and postcolonial capitalistic economic and environmental legislation in the 19th and 20'b centuries. The findings also show that Islam has greatly influenced the Mijikenda through its socio-religious and economic principles. The study exemplifies that Mijikenda Muslims are reluctant to fully adopt contemporary economic and environmental policies unrelated to their socio-religious principles. Subsequently, change in environmental perceptions is occasioned by numerous economic and environmental challenges. Hence, the need to search for multidimensional strategies of mobilizing Mijikenda Muslims to adopt sustainable environmental interventions from an Islamic perspective. Chapter Five examines some strategies to harmonise environmental intervention programmes for sustainable development and conservation of environment. These interventions are based on indigenous, Islamic and contemporary concepts of sustainable development. The chapter illustrates feasible strategies of integrating contemporary environmental education into formal and non-formal education programmes offered in Muslim institutions, community based organisations and non governmental organisations. It further underlines the need for integrated conservation programmes, guided by some dimensions of conformity in NEMCA, Islamic principles and indigenous norms. The present study concludes that it is necessary to integrate different environmental intervention programmes guided by ideals of al-tanmiyah al-mustadamah. It calls for multistakeholders systems of planning and implementation of development and environmental programmes. Accordingly, it proposes an all-inclusive involvement of local religious leaders, co-ordinators of CBOs as well as relevant government departments and NGOs for sustainable socio-economic development programmes. It further recommends greater commitment of local socio-religious and education organisations in integrating formal environmental programmes (education and policies) into madrassah and informal education offered in existing CBOs and NGOs amongst the Mijikenda Muslims
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