Maize farmers who grow the crop in Kakamega forest have raised concerns on the order from the ministry of environment and natural resources to start planting short cover crops in the forest to enhance the survival rate of tree seedlings that are always planted in between the plants.
The ministry has suggested the planting of Irish potatoes, beans among others to give the tree seedlings enough light for survival.
The farmers fear lack of a market for the short cover crops arguing that most of them are not staple food in the region and thus they may end up counting losses.
Led by a community based organization in the region that is tasked with the safeguarding of the forest (MUILESHI) they have called upon Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Keriako Tobiko to reconsider his take and give them an opportunity to grow maize assuring that they will ensure the growth of the seedlings.
According to them, they have for centuries taken care of the seedlings, growing the plant and nothing will change the situation right now.
Kakamega county women representative Elsie Muhanda who joined the farmers who planted over 10,000 seedlings at Shamiloli village of Shinyalu Sub County in Kakamega County in readiness for the planting season seconded their opinion.
Muhanda has called upon the ministry to always include the resident’s views before coming up with new policies saying that it is an infringement of their rights.
“Western region is known for planting maize during the long rains and then beans during the short rains, changing the norm may cause losses to the farmers.” said Muhanda.
She further questioned the idea of planting Irish potatoes in the region demanding to know if any research has been done to prove that it can be productive.
Lack of market for the short cover crops like beans and Irish potatoes in the region is the biggest worry for the farmers who might refuse to take up plots in the forest and thus leaving the seedlings unattended to.
Kakamega forest manager Alice Ingutia addressing the farmers pleaded with them to comply with the new policy as they await a complaint launched to the ministry.