Why we can’t go back to the Shamba system

An aerial view where part of the Mau forest has been cleared for agriculture. [File, Standard]

All eyes were on Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua this week after he was “misquoted” when he said the new government would give back the “Shamba system” that allows farming in forests.

He said eventually trees would grow and drive farmers out of the forests. For a moment, DP Gachagua seemed to be the only stranger in Jerusalem aware of the existence of a farmer who could be evicted from a forest by a mature 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 whether there would still be forests by 2030.

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

This week I attended a symposium calling for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, led by people of different faiths around the world, where I also addressed the following: “We share this earth… Our survival is not negotiable , when thousands of biodiversity are lost; we need them all (for us) to stay alive… No religion says we should destroy the planet… How we live in a few years depends on how we fight desertification”.

Reintroducing the Shamba system will undermine President William Ruto’s plans to tackle climate change by reducing deforestation and ensuring a faster and fairer transition to renewable energy, as he promised in his inaugural address.

The Shamba system is a no! Not now that we want to hold on to good news about nature; even as small as a nature reserve like Lewa, which reports on the growth of the rhino population. Not when The State of the Climate, a report by the World Meteorological Organization released this week, projects the risk of water stress-induced conflict, displacement, destabilized economies across the Horn of Africa and a degrading ecosystem. Up to 700 million people in Africa are said to be at risk of being displaced by climate-related 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 we have to go in the right direction with our calls for climate funds from elite nations that make global warming worse by profiting from fossil fuels.

Going in the right direction requires closing all the loopholes that climate deniers see through policies and actions, building community capacity on global warming and best locally-led practices to increase adaptation and resilience, more Fund research to implement the revised Nationally Determined Contributions sent to the UNFCCC in December 2020, improving infrastructure and technology for early warning systems, working with neighboring countries in joint efforts to address the crisis, and mobilizing Africa to address elite nations regarding Hold climate finance to account, especially at COP27.

Just as Vanuatu, a small Pacific island nation, was the first country to call for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty and even pushed for it at the recent UN General Assembly, Kenya can be proud of taking bold steps towards the transition to renewable energy and to help place Africa in the right place in the climate puzzle.

Kenya has evidence of the effects of harsh climate conditions that have killed thousands of people, destabilized hundreds of thousands of others and caused untold suffering from drought, floods and pollution.

Knowing this, we must urge and speak louder to avoid global inequalities on the issue of climate change, but without forgetting our core responsibilities.

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

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