green gold

Kenya: The return of the controversial shamba system

By Jeff Otieno

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Posted on October 10, 2022 13:05

 © Karura Forest, Nairobi, Kenya, 2015 (Ninaras, wikimedia commons)
Karura Forest, Nairobi, Kenya, 2015 (Ninaras, wikimedia commons)

Kenya’s new government under President William Ruto has announced a lift on the ban of the shamba system – a controversial organisation that allows individuals to farm in forests. The lift has many conservationists worried about the country’s commitment to tackle climate change. Will the government  listen to counsel from environmentalists or choose to play populist politics with the green gold?

Last month, when Ruto was in New York pleading for more support to combat climate change, his deputy was announcing the lifting of the ban on the shamba system, which has been blamed for the wanton destruction of the country’s natural forests.

“In the forest there was [a] shamba system, where people were allowed to grow maize, nurture the trees and when grown they would leave. This government is yours, we have issued an order for people to be allowed to farm inside the forest. We import maize yet we can grow more using the system,” Rigathi Gachagua said at a burial ceremony in Rift Valley’s Baringo County.

The shamba system, also known as the Plantation Establishment for Livelihood Improvement Scheme (PELIS), involves farmers tending to tree saplings on state-owned forest land in return for being permitted to intercrop food crops until the trees mature and form a canopy.

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