Why we must not return to the shamba system

An aerial view where a section of Mau forest has been cleared for farming. [File, Standard]

This week all eyes were on Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua after he was “mis”-quoted as saying the new government would return the “Shamba system” that allows farming in forests.

He said trees would eventually grow and push the farmers out of the forests. For a moment it appeared DP Gachagua was the only stranger in Jerusalem, aware of existence of a farmer that could be pushed out of a forest by a grown tree.

He forgot the long and short-term effects of a Shamba system on water towers, forest and tree cover, agriculture, tourism, livelihoods, health and if there would be any forests left by 2030.

And do forests only have trees? What happens to the insects, birds, animals, peat, honey, and indigenous communities’ attachments, the medicinal and aesthetic values of the forests?

This week I attended a symposium calling on a Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty, spearheaded by people of diverse faiths across the globe, where I also picked this: “We share this earth… Our survival cannot be negotiated when thousands of biodiversity is lost; we need all of them (for us) to stay alive… No religion says we should destroy the planet… How we live a few years from now depends on how we fight desertification”.

Re-introducing the Shamba system will undermine President William Ruto’s plans to tackle climate change by reducing deforestation and ensuring faster just transition to renewable energy, promised in his inauguration speech.

The Shamba system is a No! Not now, when we want to clutch on any good news concerning nature; even as tiny as a conservancy like Lewa reporting rhino’s population growth. Not when “The State of the Climate”, a World Meteorological Organisation report released this week, projects risk of water stress-induced conflicts, displacements, destabilised economies in the entire Horn of Africa as well as a hurting ecosystem. Up to 700 million people in Africa, it says, risk displacement as a result of climate induced water shocks by 2030.

I want to believe that DP Gachagua, knowing how interconnected the ecosystem is, was misquoted, or did he misquote himself? Because in our demands for climate funds from elite nations worsening global warming by profiting from fossil fuels, we must walk in the right direction.

Walking in the right direction includes sealing, through policies and action, all the loopholes climate deniers see, building communities’ capacities on global warming and best locally-led practices to increase adaptation and resilience, funding more research to implement the revised Nationally Determined Contributions sent to UNFCCC in December 2020, improving infrastructure and technology for early warning systems, liaising with neighbouring countries on joint efforts to tackle the crisis and rallying Africa to put elite nations to task on climate finances, especially at the COP27.

Just like Vanuatu, a small Pacific island nation became the first country to call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, and even pushed for the same at the recent UN general assembly, Kenya can pride taking bold steps towards transition to renewable energy and help place Africa at the right spot in the climate puzzle.

Kenya has evidence of effects of harsh climate conditions that has caused deaths of thousands of its population, destabilised hundreds of thousands others and caused untold suffering through drought, flooding and pollution.

Knowing this, we must push for avoidance of global inequalities on the climate change matter, and speak louder, but without forgetting our core responsibilities.

The writer is interim communications manager at GreenFaith. [email protected]

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