Farming in forests will now be permitted, says DP Rigathi Gachagua

Rigathi Gachagua

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua during the funeral service of Mr Charles Kipng’ok, the Baringo deputy governor, at Solian Girls High School in Eldama-Ravine, Baringo, on September 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has said that Kenya Kwanza will bring back a controversial system that allowed Kenyans to farm inside forests even as he hinted that President William Ruto will name his Cabinet within three weeks.

The country’s second in command said the controversial shamba system will be back so as to increase the county’s food production while arguing that the former regimes erred in abolishing the system.

“On the issue of forest, there was a Cabinet Secretary who came and barred everything. You cannot even collect leaves for cooking and they decay. I do not know what some people were thinking of,” said Mr Gachagua in Baringo on Saturday.

“There was a shamba system where Kenyans were being allowed to cultivate maize as they take care of trees and when trees grow big, they leave. I want to say that this is your government. We have issued an order that Kenyans be allowed to do farming in the forest so that we can increase food production in this country,” he added. 

While asking Kenyans not to act on the order until Dr William Ruto’s administration puts in place a new Environment cabinet secretary, Mr Gachagua said the move will help in addressing the current maize shortage in the country.

“What is the point of denying Kenyans not to cultivate maize in the forest then import maize from other countries? We have agreed that you will cultivate in the forest without destroying it. The good thing with trees which God planned is that when they have grown, no one has to tell you to leave, you will leave by yourself because when it grows to a certain level, no maize can survive there. Therefore, the shamba system will be back. Just wait a little bit we put in place an Environment Cabinet secretary who is smart,” he said. 

The shamba system, which was started in the colonial era, moves farmers into a degraded forest to plant and tend to tree seedlings while planting their own crops there. 

However, had faced a lot of criticism from environmentalists, including the late Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. 

He was accompanied by area Governor Benjamin Cheboi, Council of Governors (CoG) chairperson and also Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Stephen Sang (Nandi), Wisley Rotich (Elgeyo Marakwet), Ken Lusaka (Bungoma), Dr Eric Mutai (Kericho) among other leaders.

When properly practised, the shamba system moves farmers into the nearby degraded forest to plant and tend to tree seedlings whilst planting their own crops among the seedlings.  

Started in the colonial days of 1910, the shamba system has been run under different arrangements and agreements between the government and the peasant farmers but it used to operate under no legal frame.

It was a system which was used by those with a high affinity for land to grab public forest land while destroying it.

Shamba system, which is also known as Pelis, was abolished by Mwai Kibaki's regime since it was subject to abuse by some Kenya Forest Service and millers who were also taking advantage to do logging.

He further insisted that the Kenya Kwanza administration will not subsidise consumption saying that they are banking on increasing production in order to turn around the economy.