Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests

Code: KVDA/STV/10A

Location: Kwale County

Dates: 5th - 26th October 2019

Fees: 300 £

Theme: Preservation, Restoration, Protection and Promotion of the World Heritage

Project overview

This project is a joint effort involving Kenya Voluntary Development Association, Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS), UNESCO Paris, Shimba Hills Forest Guide and Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests.

KVDA is among the projects approved by CCIVS under the umbrella of UNESCO World Heritage program to run the 2016 WHV campaign.

Mijikenda Economic Activities

Agriculture is the main economic activity of the Mijikenda people. Their most important cash crop is the coconut palms, whose products include oil extracts and palm wine. Its fronds are also used for roofing and as material for making baskets, mats, brooms and other weaved products. Other important cash crops include cashew nuts, oranges and mangos. Where favorable weather conditions allow, some Mijikenda people also grow annual crops such as maize, sorghum, millet, and beans.

Fishing is another important economic activity for the Mijikenda people. Mijikenda’s actively fish in the neighboring Indian Ocean, where their "daily catch" forms part of the seafood supplied to Kenya's coastal hotels and residents.

Mijikenda Food

The Mijikenda, and more particularly the Digo, are considered some of the best cooks among the Kenyan tribes. Wali, a popular Kenyan food, is also a staple of the Mijikenda tribe. Wali is rice prepared with coconut milk, giving it a sweet taste. Fish and other seafood are also common in Mijikenda cuisine.


The Mijikenda community is composed of 9 different tribes who live along the coast of Kenya. They are closely related but distinct people—the Kauma, Chonyi, Jibana, Giriama, Kamabe, Ribe, Rabai, Duruma and Digo. They share a common linguistic and cultural heritage. Traditionally, each group lives in its own hilltop village (kaya) on the ridge along the Kenya coast, between the towns of Kilifi and Vanga.

In the past, the Mijikenda tribe was also referred to as the Nyika tribe, a near-derogatory term implying bush people. "Mijikenda" literally means nine homes or nine homesteads (in Swahili), referring to the common ancestry of the Mijikenda people. The nine Mijikenda sub-tribes are believed to be nine different homes of the same tribe. Each sub-tribe speaks its own dialect of the Mijikenda language.

Mijikenda Origin and History

Mijikenda oral history traces the origin of the tribe to the southern regions of Somalia. It is believed that the Mijikenda people escaped constant attacks from the Oromo and other Cushitic tribes, and settled in the coastal ridges that were easier to defend.

Historically, the Mijikenda have had close interactions with the Persian, Arab, and Portuguese traders who frequented their home territory along the Kenyan coast. This interaction and subsequent intermarriage with the Arabs gave birth to the Swahili culture and language. As a result, the Swahili language - Kiswahili - bears a close lexical similarity with all dialects of the Mijikenda people.

The Mijikenda culture revolves around clans and age-sets. A Mijikenda clan consists of several family groups with a common patriarchal ancestor. Traditionally, each clan lived in one fortified village built in a cleared area of the forested ridges. A person's age-set determined their role and social standing within the clan and elaborate rituals were often held for members graduating from one age-set to another.

Each Mijikenda clan had their own sacred place known as kaya, a shrine for prayer, sacrifices and other religious rituals. These Kayas were located deep in the forests and it was considered taboo to cut the trees and vegetation around them. The Kaya elders, often members of the oldest age-set, were deemed to possess supernatural powers including the ability to make rain. Like other Kenyan tribes today, Mijikenda people have assimilated to modern cultural practices, resulting in the disappearance of many of their traditional customs. Most Mijikenda people are now either Christians or Muslims; however, some still practice their traditional culture or a mixture of Christianity or Islam with their traditional religion. Islam is more widespread among the Digo than in the other Mijikenda sub-tribes.

AGE: Volunteers have to be at least 18 years old to participate in the work camp. There is no upper age limit.

PROJECT Activities: Volunteers will work for six hours daily from Monday to Friday.


Manual work and Intercultural activities: 

•             Collection of tree seeds

•             Establishment of tree nurseries and nature trail

•             Community awareness meetings on forest conservation

•             Study sessions on world heritage and training on enterprise development

•             Home visits in the local community.

PROJECT PARTICIPANTS: Maximum 20 volunteers from Kenya and the international community

What to carry?

This is outlined in the detailed info sheet and includes, sleeping bag and mat, toiletries, torch/flashlight, sandals, mosquito net, national flag from your country, among others


These are usually symbolic gestures to enhance the solidarity of volunteers and the hosting community. Kindly contact KVDA for details in case you are willing to support a worthy cause in the community either by offering a donation or long-term intervention on the project.

THEME: Preservation, Restoration, Protection and Promotion of the World Heritage

•             In the framework of UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme, this campaign co-organized by CCIVS and the World Heritage Centre (WHC) follows 3 main objectives stated in the global vision defined during the first WHV Evaluation and Planning meeting in March 2010.

•             First of all, it aims at sparking interest about the importance and necessity to protect and promote cultural and natural heritage in general and World Heritage related sites in particular.

•             The target group must be as wide as possible and include motivated volunteers, hosting local communities and concerned authorities. Then, the WHV projects are expected to develop appreciation of the WH values through non-formal education methods disseminating the inter-governmental and national expertise to a large public and more specifically young people.

•             Indeed, awareness-raising about WH should rely on a dynamic dialogue and synergies between all the WH stakeholders. Lastly, work camps run by international voluntary service organizations and whose activities are based on the concrete needs of the site are the type of project chosen to bring local and international communities together around the issue of WH in connection with the issue of sustainable development.

•             An increasing number of projects have been selected since the first edition. However, and even though the selection is open to all, the future WHV projects must fulfill a set of criteria. Such process not only aims at the participation of the most relevant projects but also a better coordination of the selected projects. The organizations are also required to send a detailed programme of activities after the official selection of projects.

Orientation: Will be done on 5th October 2019 at KVDA Residence in Nairobi and the team will leave for the project on the morning of 6th October 2019

Airport pick-up services: This will be done subject to provision of full flight details. The port of entry to Kenya is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. Volunteers will stay at KVDA Residence in Nairobi at a fee

Participation FEES: The project participation fees that is all-inclusive for the three weeks’ work camp is Euro 300

INSURANCE: KVDA does not provide insurance and volunteers should obtain travel insurance cover. It is a good idea to get medicine you are used to from your home country and seek advice from your personal doctor.


Project preparation cycle, return transfers from the airport and the project, KVDA administration, orientation, certificate of participation, project coordination, facilitation, evaluation and monitoring


Excursion activities, local travel while in the community, personal effects, needs and wants.


KVDA offers educational tours to spectacular sites including the renowned Maasai Mara Game Reserve at separate fees. Please contact us for specific tour information.


The host community will provide a house to accommodate the volunteers with very basic living conditions. Volunteers have an obligation to climb down the level of the people with the aim of exposure to development challenges. KVDA will provide foodstuffs and volunteers will cook their own meals in turns. Water is available from springs and it is recommended that drinking water should be boiled or medicated. Mineral water available at supermarkets is also recommended. There is no electricity connection at the project but volunteers can charge their electric appliances at the nearest market center.

LANGUAGE: English is the language of the work camp. There will be a possibility of learning Kiswahili and other international and local languages as cultural diversity is a major component in international service


Below are the emergency contacts for Kenya Voluntary Development Association:

KVDA Administration: 0721 650 357

PROJECT DETAILED INFO SHEET: Will be sent to the volunteer sending organization as soon as the application is accepted by KVDA

CONFIRMATION DEADLINE: Should be done via e-mail at least one month before the start of the project



  • Author: admin