Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua is again in the eye of a storm after he promised a return to the prohibited “shamba system” that was blamed for the destruction of forest cover and degradation of the environment in the country.
Only days after President William Ruto’s much acclaimed speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, which centred on the country’s committement to combat climate change, Rigathi’s statement appeared to water down the statement of the boss.
While his audience cheered him wildly as he promised to bring back the shamba system that was outlawed by President Kibaki in 2003, environmentalists expressed fears that, allowing the shamba system back would completely destroy what remains of our forests.
Others are afraid of the return of the “dark days” of Kanu regime where forests were excised with reckless abandon leading to massive deforestation in a country where forest cover is less than the recommended 10% of the land mass.
Many quoted a famous statement by the late Prof Wangari Maathai and Nobel Laureate who led the campaign against the shamba system saying it had been abused to destroy forest cover and vegetation and, in the end, resulted to serious environmental degradation.
However, supporters of the new government and Gachagua’s statement are of the view that with proper management “shamba system” can help result forest cover.
Gachagua said that they want as soon as they appoint a Cabinet Secretary with a “good mind” that they will work out modalities of the return of the shamba system much to the delight of the people.
He said it was not clever for government to be importing maize while farmers could be allowed to grow the same in the forests – under the shamba system.