Environmentalists in Narok oppose reintroduction of 'shamba system'

A man arrives with tree seedlings at Ontulili forest on March 21 2018. Members of the Ontulili/Karuri CFA plant crops under the shamba system as they grow trees.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group


Environmentalists in Narok, the home of the Maasai Mau water tower, have criticised recent utterances by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua about plans to reintroduce the 'shamba system' in afforestation.

Led by Mr Nicholas Murero, the activists said that allowing people to farm in forests would threaten the ecosystems.

"The shamba system is an outdated way of planting trees and it has proved not to work effectively in adding forest cover. By encouraging people to farm in forests, people might invade forests," he said.

Mr Murero, the chairman of the Narok County Natural Resources Network, said people who were flushed out of the Mau forest might mistake DP Gachagua's statement and reenter the rehabilitated forest.

The government removed over 35,000 illegal settlers from Maasai Mau forest on November 1, 2019.

Mr Murero called on President William Ruto to look into his deputy's utterances as the country grapples with the effects of climate change.

"The Mau forest and other rehabilitated forests in the country are now under threat. We call on the government to protect our forests from possible encroachment in the name of the shamba system," Mr Murero said.

The shamba system is an indigenous way of regenerating forests where the farmers are allowed to plant crops under trees until the trees form canopies, forcing the farmers to then leave the trees to grow.

Mr Murero's sentiments were echoed by Friends of Mau Forest chairman Jackson Kamuye, who called on the government to boost security for the recently reclaimed Mau forest to deter possible invasion.

"The Mau forest is now a protected forest and leaders should desist from making alarming statements that may pose a threat to our environment," Mr Kamuye said.

On the campaign trail in Narok, President Ruto assured residents that he would not allow settlers back to the Mau forest.