Elders of Dida, Kafitsoni, Nyari and Rare villages want the burial place of their great-grandparents to be recommended as a Kaya. Dida, Kafitsoni and Nyari are on the western edge of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, whilst Rare village is approximately 2.5km from the forest boundary, between Kafitsoni and Nyari.
A Kaya is a deserted village which the locals have no intention of returning to. It is considered a sacred place and members of the families go to the place and pray to god through their ancestors. When the Sanya people migrated up from Kaya Kinondo in Kwale to the south of Mombasa, Rare was the first village they formed after they had arrived in this area. Kaya Kinondo has now become a site of interest for tourists to visit due to its fascinating history.
Legend has it that in the 15th Century, Mwavuo, son of Ngonyo was the first man who settled at Rare from Kwale. Mwavuo had wives, children, a large group of servants and many cattle. The children grew up well and his eldest son, Ngonyo son of Mwavuo (in Giriama tradition, the grandson takes on the name of the grandfather), decided he wanted to own his own property so he asked his father to divide his estate.
So Mwavuo took his children together up to a place called Dida, where he began to divide the land. Ngonyo as his eldest son was given Dida, his sons Katete and Nyanke were given Kafitsoni and Mumba was given Nyari. The others followed up to Sokoke.
Some years later, Ngonyo decided to move to Marafa, whereby he was appointed Chief by the British Government. The brothers of Ngonyo stayed in their inherited lands. The grandsons of Ngonyo and his brothers stayed at the same land up to today, where they are still alive – though very old now.
When ASF was proposed for degazettement, the grandsons of Ngonyo’s brothers were the first elders from around the forest to come to the Government offices at Gede Forest Station to state their opposition to the degazzettement. They really wanted the forest to remain as it was before. The elders were very happy with the first demarcation, done by the British Government in the early days. Furthermore they have understood the significant importance of the forest in its usefulness to the local community in many different ways.
The first major project for ASF was that of BirdLife International – and it met with the same problems of threats to degazette the forest. The Project Co-ordinator was very happy, therefore, to work with the Dida Elders who were the first community to fight for the conservation of the forest.
Some months later, conservation awareness was made around the forest to support Dida community with their conservation. Elders sat down together and formed a conservation group – Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Adjacent Dwellers Association (ASFADA). The group stated that they are facing many problems from the forest wildlife coming to their shambas (farms) and destroying crops. The Project Co-ordinator then helped the group to write a proposal, which succeeded in gaining funds to install the Elephant Fence know seen around the forest edges.
The Dida elders are proud of their achievements in stopping degazettement of the forest through focussing on the same things that their grandfather Ngonyo prioritised – and which therefore led to him being appointed a Chief in Marafa in the early days.
Given the history of their people and the stories handed down from their great grandparents, the people of Dida and Rare are very keen to make their area known as a place of interest and to have their burial ground recognised as a Kaya.