Over four thousand farmers living around Kiptogot forest in Endebes constituency are up in arms against each other as they battle over control of allocation of plots in the forest under the community forest association – CFA program.
The farmers who last Thursday had forced their way to hold elections to elect new office bearers accused the current officials over what they termed exploitation and favoritism in allocation of plots in the forest.
According to some of the farmers who spoke to West Fm, for one to qualify to plant and cultivate crops in the forest he or she should be a member of a group that is an affiliate of the community forest association and should subscribe a certain amount of money for enrollment.
“These officials are so corrupt such that they always overcharge us in order to allocate us plots of land because we always pay Ksh. 10,000 to them for a plot of 50ft by 100 ft yet we are supposed to pay Ksh. 3000 of which Ksh. 2500 goes to the association and the Ksh. 500 goes to the government,” said one of the farmers.
The farmers who had assembled at the Kiptogot forest offices ready to participate in the elections were charged up and could not hear anything about the outgoing office as they were rearing to see the whole officials kicked out of office.
Basing on the farmers’ allegations then it means that millions of unaccounted money goes to the pockets of a few CFA officials and forest officers at the station annually.
West Fm established that there are over 1500 farmers who are officially registered in the 54 groups that form the CFA hence are legible to subscribe for plots in the forest annually and that reveals the amount of money that is minted by the officials and the cartels involved in identifying farmers who should benefit from the program.
“We want to know where the other money that we pay apart from the Ksh. 500 that goes to the government and the Ksh. 2500 that goes to the association because many people pay for ten plots or even twenty and others have forty plots meaning that there is a lot of money that is being pocketed by these officials and their accomplishes,” said one of the contestants for the seat of the chair of the CFA.
Tension was high at the intended polls such that the officers in charge of the elections were forced to postpone the elections due to pressure by the crowd demanding to employ the queuing system of voting against the secret one proposed by the officials.
The elections officials led by Felix Mavili in assistance with administrators led by Chepchoina chief Richard Kirui were forced to deploy anti-riot police from Endebes and neighboring stations to contain the crowd that seemed to have been charged by some of the campaigners especially the new comers who want to take over office.
The postponement was welcomed by many including leaders among them the Chepchoina member of county assembly George Masika who felt that the tension could spill into something else such as clashes among the groups after the elections hence the postponement could enable the tempers to cool down for the farmers to later vote for their officials when they are sober enough.
The community forest associations were introduced by the ministry of forests and wildlife in order to involve people from communities living around the forests to be involved in conserving forests as they also plant and cultivate crops inside the forest.
However the program seems to have been dominated by cartels in collusion with officials of the forest association to reap millions of money from the would be beneficiaries and people who are not within the catchment area of the beneficiaries of such a program.
According to the program, people living within five kilometers from the forest should benefit under the program but in the case of Kiptogot and Suam forests, the officials of the CFA’s and the foresters have been accused of involving people from distant places including neighboring Uganda who are said to dominate in the program as compared to the bona fide members of the associations.
The officials are said to prefer foreigners or distant business operators and prominent farmers who do not hesitate to pay any amount of money to be allocated as many plots as possible to cultivate crops especially maize in the fertile forest land where they get bumper harvests even without applying fertilizer as compared to the local peasant farmers who struggle to raise money even for a single plot.