Shamba system proposal triggers mixed reactions

Monday, September 26th, 2022 02:44 | By
Rigathi Gachagua
Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua (left) and ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi during an interdenominational prayer service at Larmudiac High School grounds in Njoro, Nakuru, on Sunday, September 4, 2022. PHOTO/William Ruto (@WilliamsRuto)/Twitter

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has  ignited a political debate with his recent remarks that the government shall allow the Shamba System farming in forests.

Top environmentalists as well as politicians differed on whether the country was ready for the adoption of the system.

Gachagua at the weekend said farmers living around forests could revert to the ‘Shamba’ farming system as a source of livelihood to boost food production.

At the funeral service of Baringo Deputy Governor Charles Kipng’ok in Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, on Saturday Gachagua said the orders will be implemented once a new cabinet is named.

Avoid logging

 “Forests belong to citizens, you are the ones who take care of them all these years. There is a CS who came and banned you from taking even a leaf to cook. The leaves are rotting,” said Gachagua.

The ban was imposed in January 2021 by Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration on grounds that the farming system popular during the late President Daniel arap Moi’s era degraded the environment.

Saw millers in Nakuru led by Timber Manufactures Association Treasurer Zackayo Maina, expressed their frustrations with the previous regime saying the multi-billion shilling sector had collapsed due to wayward directives.

Maina hoped that the current administration will lift the moratorium on logging to revive the sector.

He said that the government lost billions in taxes since 2018 saying that the factory had employed at least 2,000 people who were sent home after the ban.

 Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said the directive is welcome as it will help grow forests, and that it will be smoothly carried out to avoid logging.  “Shamba system shall accelerate 10 per cent forest cover & it is in line with climate change policies, also ensure food security, therefore, bringing down cost of living. There shall be no illegal logging or land grabbing. It will create community ownership & protection of forests in Kenya,” Cherargei said.

According to Economist David Ndii, the binding constraint on increasing tree cover is land rather than labour.  “Our agroforestry initiative is predicated on replicating the “shamba system” on private land,” said Ndii.

However, the move has attracted dissenting voices including leaders and environmentalists who have raised concerns about it saying it will breed massive land grabbing and in turn destroy the environment. Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale in a tweet yesterday opposed the re-introduction of the system saying it would be difficult to differ with peace laureate Prof Wangari Mathai, who fought the shamba system during the Moi era.

   Singer and former presidential hopeful Reuben Kigame said the proposal remains a bad idea for the country at a time the world is fighting climate change caused by environmental degradation.

“Another bad start for the new government. There go for our forests at a time we are fighting climate change. Please watch and help me say no to the grabbing of our forests,” Kigame said.

Exotic trees

Similar sentiments were echoed by lawyer Miguna Miguna, who said Gachagua must avoid roadside declarations insisting that farming in forests is a bad idea.

At the same time, lawyer Ahmednassir Abdullahi also compared the Shamba System to a form of land grabbing.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the shamba system is a way to afforest land where exotic trees have been cut for timber.

“The shamba system is a way to afforest land where exotic trees have been cut for timber. The community benefits from being able to plant crops in exchange for planting tree seedlings and taking care of the growing trees for three years,” UNEP said in 2019.

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