Shamba system depleting forest cover, says report

A new report has revealed that the shamba system, which was launched to improve forest cover, is actually causing degradation of forests.

Under the programme, which is also known as Plantation Establishment Livelihood Improvement Scheme (Pelis), the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) allows communities neighbouring forests to grow crops on forest land when the trees are young.

But environmentalists have described the programme as the most abused scheme in the forestry sector.

“This is the most abused programme in the forestry sector. As the national committee handling environmental complaints, we have discovered that the programme has bred corruption where foresters allocate themselves huge chunks of forest land and there is a reluctance to plant and tend the tree seedlings,” said John Chumo, secretary of the National Environmental Complaints Committee (NECC). The programme, according to the latest report by NECC, is contributing to forest degradation.

The forests affected include Kibiri, South Nandi, Mt Elgon Cherangany, Sabatia, Koibatek, Maji Mazuri and Kabaru.

Dr Chumo said they received complaints “on a daily basis” linking the programme with destruction.

“The programme targeted the surrounding community who do not have land or who have small parcels, but this has turned into a commercial venture for some officials mandated to take care of these forests,” he said.

“No one cares about replanting or even caring for the tree seedlings. This has also hampered the restoration of indigenous forests,” he added.

Peter Ikihu, the head of Mau Conservancy, however said the programme had helped to boost forest cover in spite of what he called a few challenges.

“There are a few isolated cases where those allocated forest land to tend the seedlings sometimes cut them down,” said Mr Ikihu, adding that KFS usually blacklisted such individuals and they were barred from future allocations.

Richard Kapngoror, a Community Forest Association member, blamed KFS for not establishing an effective monitoring and evaluation team to handle such issues.