The government has banned farming in Mt Elgon forest in the controversial Chepyuk settlement scheme.
The government directive, according to government officials is informed by the need to fight insecurity by criminal gangs.
Speaking to KNA on telephone on Sunday, the Western Regional Co-ordinator Mr. Mwogo Chimwaga, the continued cultivation of forest land in Cheptais Sub County has been cited as the main staging ground for attacks on local people by criminal gangs who visit terror on residents.
He said the Bungoma County security team regrets the killing of 8 people by the criminal gangs operating in Kopsiro division, and warned that the government had deployed all its security machineries to weed out the gang.
Chimwaga said the residents have been cultivating forest land through the Kenya Forest Association and the Community Forest Association for the past 9 years and that investigations have revealed that criminal gangs were operating from the forest.
I am ordering the immediate closure of the shamba system in which locals have been cultivating forest land through the Kenya Forest Association and the Community Forest Association for the past 9 years because thorough investigations have emerged that there are groups fighting to control the system, hence the emergence of criminal gangs, he said.
He noted that the government had put in place all the machineries to help in wiping out the criminal gangs.
The Shamba system is where the locals living near forests are allowed to cultivate crops alongside trees.
In a quick reaction to the ban, Cheptais Township Member of county assembly Ms Janet Chebet has distanced herself from the move by the government, saying it is ill advised.
In a telephone interview with KNA on Sunday afternoon, Chebet asked the security team to deal with security matters in the forest without interfering with farming activities by the surrounding communities.
She further noted that the ban will escalate food insecurity which may escalate insecurity in the region.
The MCA raised concern over the timing of the ban, saying some residents had already commenced land preparation for this year’s farming season.
She called on the government to deal with security issues in the area without interfering with agriculture production.
As a county government, we are dealing with food insecurity. For your information Mt Elgon is the food basket of western region. The ban will have adverse effects on food security in the region, she noted.
Source: Kenya News Agency