Gachagua Under Fire for Remarks on Kenyans Farming in Forests

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has faced backlash after hinting at re-introducing the outlawed Shamba System where people are allowed to grow crops in the forest. 

Speaking on Saturday, September 24, Gachagua noted that the system was essential in increasing the country’s food production and even helping in addressing the perennial hunger issue.

The Deputy President who had attended the funeral of Baringo deputy governor, the late Charles Kipng’ok assured the residents that President William Ruto’s government was working to ensure the system returned in a more organised way without causing forest destructions.

“You know these forests belong to the citizens. You are the ones guarding them. There is a CS who came in and barred people from even picking leaves for cooking.”

“In the forest, we had Shamba System, where citizens were allocated land to plant maize while at the same time ploughing the trees. We will issue an order for you to resume planting in the forests so that we increase food production in the country. We will give guidelines on how to plant in the forest without destroying the trees,” Gachagua stated.

He, nonetheless, asked farmers to be patient enough until the government appoints a Cabinet Secretary who will address the issue adequately. 

However, the second in command came under fire over his sentiments with the opposition and environmental activists reiterating that the system was banned in 2003 following stiff criticism by then Environment assistant minister Wangari Maathai.

Maathai affirmed that the system had been abused as farmers were allowed turn large sections of indigenous forests into farmlands. Before the system was banned in the country, it was blamed for Mount Elgon Forest’s destruction, where residents cleared trees and others encroached into the forest land.

“We cannot sacrifice indigenous forests at the expense of exotic plantations. Plantations represent a monoculture of trees, but a forest is an ecology system,” she insisted.

Narok senator Ledama Ole Kina called out the second in command, arguing that his directive would expose the forest to destruction.

“So this Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is inviting Kenyans to go and invade Mount Kenya, Aberdare and Nandi forests.  When is the induction session for the deputy president on what he can and cannot do? My friend, you are not above the law!” Ledama cautioned. 

Nation Africa columnist, Gabriel Oguda, explained that Gachagua’s comments would water down the progress made by the late Maathai. He further argued that the sentiments deviated from what Ruto had championed during United Nations General Assembly meeting.

“The loud silence – from those who praised President William Ruto’s climate change speech at the UNGA – is brought to you by Rigathi Gachagua’s unsolicited commitment to reintroduce the Shamba System,” Oguda wrote.

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