The Nation (Nairobi)

22 May 2008

Kenya: Cultivation in Forests Re-Introduced

Nairobi — People living next to forests will be allowed to cultivate their crops in the forests, akin to what was earlier called the shamba (garden) system.

Speaking at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute in Muguga Wednesday, Forestry and Wildlife minister, Dr Noah Wekesa said the reintroduction of the system is aimed at encouraging conservation among the communities.

Dr Wekesa said the system would be done in a "controlled manner" to prevent further depletion of the area under forest cover.

"We are already doing this in some areas and I think it is working well," he said.

Previously, environmentalists had opposed the move, saying this might encourage illegal logging.

Successful

Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai is on record saying the shamba system was not a good idea, as it would be difficult to control the cutting down of trees.

However, Dr Wekesa, said the new system, called PELIS - Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Scheme - was already being practised in some parts of the country.

He insisted that this was a different scheme although, like the shamba system, it involves the cultivation of crops in the forests.

He said that the difference was in community involvement, and pilot projects had been successful.

Dr Wekesa, who was accompanied during the tour of the institution by area MP Lewis Nguyai, Forestry Permanent Secretary, Kombo Mwero and assistant minister, Josephat Nanok, promised KEFRI staff a 16 percent salary increase once the matter was discussed in parliament.

Succession

Meanwhile, Dr Wekesa joined the Kibaki succession debate, saying this was not the time for predictions and divisive politics.

"Right now, I know not ODM nor PNU, all I want is for us to join hands and work together for the good of the country," he said.

"It is for the benefit of ODM and PNU to see that this coalition works. Who knows what will happen if it fails?"

Dr Wekesa said if the succession debate is not curtailed, he would donate the money set aside for his homecoming party to a school in his constituency.

"If all they come to do at such parties is talk succession, I better put my Sh300,000 in a school," he said.

He told colleagues that if they continue with the debate, then come 2012, his name would also be on the list of successors.

"Who knows? Maybe by 2012 other forces would come into play and you will find my name there," said Dr Wekesa.

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