Minister to gazette rules to increase forest cover
By David Ochami
Agriculture Minister William Ruto has said he will gazette new rules to increase forest cover by half a million acres.
The minister said the country should begin "thinking beyond Mau" and embark on massive reforestation and afforestation.
The proposed regulations by his ministry in collaboration with the Forestry and Environment ministries include decrees to compel farmers to convert 10 per cent of all farmland into tree farms or fruit trees.
He said the Attorney General is refining the regulations pending gazettement by the minister under the Agriculture Act. He did not, however, say when he would gazette the rules.
Mr Ruto was addressing the First All Africa Horticulture Congress in Nairobi on Monday.
Besides increasing forest/tree cover, Ruto said the Government intends to irrigate one million acres of land in arid and semi-arid areas in a radical shift from rain-fed agriculture and peasant farming in high potential areas. The minister also said irrigation in the dry lands will spur private large-scale commercial farming and mechanisation.
He said the Government must invest in and subsidise agriculture to boost production and stem out perennial famine.
"How do we encourage investment in this area to avoid perennial shame of people dying from hunger?" Ruto asked and added: "Unless Government is prepared to lead the way in investment in agriculture and horticulture, it is unlikely the private sector will do."
Ruto said an endless debate over the role of Government in agriculture has obstructed a green revolution and urged a radical shift in agricultural policy that will balance production and environmental conservation.
Further, Ruto said agriculture and environmental policy should be based on verified "research and information".
On environment, the minister said Kenya’s problems are partly associated with global climate change and hailed ongoing debate about the Mau and other water catchments.
"We need to debate without looking for excuses and scapegoats," Ruto said, adding: "The debate on environmental degradation is healthy as it helps us rediscover where to tighten our belts".
The minister said even if the Mau and other water catchments are reforested, total forest cover would increase to two per cent from 1.7 per cent of the total landmass, which he said is "short of international standards of 10 per cent".
Ruto said the 10 per cent cover could only be achieved by massive afforestation across the country.
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