A WEEKEND WELL SPENT WITH MIRAA FARMERS. WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO SAY?
Am so happy to be writing this story that I am part of, many of the people, or let me say my readers do not know where I come from, by this I mean that am a Kenyan but one from Meru.
In the recent days, my home town has been the centre of attraction for many media houses in the world and in Kenya at most. Main reason of this is that there were rumours going around that miraa which is the cash crop of the meru people was banned from being exported to Britain, i would first of all like to clarify that the ban has not yet been implemented since negotiations are undergoing between the British government and the Kenyan government.
To the lives of many Merians, miraa is what gives them food to put on the table, so if the ban took effect today, it could be so bad for them. Although miraa is the cash crop, many other plants are grown in Meru, in Imenti south the Merians living there grow bananas as their cash crop, in Michie Mukuru, the Murians there grow tea as their cash crop, in Lii part of Tigania East, they grow maize as their cash crop, and in Timau, they grow soghum, in Imenti north, people their grow potatoes as their cash crop, it is only in Tigania and Igembe where miraa is the cash crop. All these shows that Meru is a good agricultural area that has various options for its farmers.
As a Nairobi resident but a Merian by birth, when the miraa story took its space everywhere in the media industry, more so the social media, i had so many questions to answer as an opinion former and leader of the people I represent in Nairobi. I answered many that needed general knowledge and the once that needed evidential and current facts pushed me to organise a trip to up country to collect the facts.
Immediately i arrived home I met my Uncle who as it is the tradition gave me miraa to welcome me home, as we were chewing and chatting, I took that opportunity to ask the questions that had brought me home, :if I may ask you Uncle, as the ban on miraa affected our people, and if yes to what extent?: :at this area(Tigania East and west), i will tell you no, because the miraa we grow here are export for African countries: it is then that I met my first challenge in my mission since that night i decided to travel to places that farm miraa ane export it to London. I met so many challenges on the way and one of them was, I almost had my life taken away by a young man whom i had asked about the miraa story and he had told me he was not ready to talk about it and when I tried to insist, he almost dipped his dagga in my chest but I was rescued my fellow passengers.
My first stop was at Karama, here, I met a lady called Jane Makena who told me although she is a Merian and lives in Meru she knows little about miraa business for it is mostly done by men and she had chosen to school and not farm miraa, all in all, she took me to her father one Mr. John Kamwithu, who was a big help to me. After respectable greeting that are for the older generation, and a cup of tea which I could not say no too, traditionally, I asked three questions whose answers came in a pack: the miraa we farm here, mostly is of African consumption but some of it is for export to Europe and Asia:, i was now at least in the right place, so i went on to ask, if the miraa barn had taken effect and a bit no come from him as he stood to explain it. :no! It has not and i think it will not:. What made me happy until now, is that the old man was so updated and he went on to tell me :young man, you are so young not to be updated: little did he know that reading from the updates in the internet is very different from finding from the ground. :don’t you read the Daily post, anyway they updated on Thursday afternoon that, negotiation were ongoing and so far no barn is in place until there is an official statement from the prime minister of Britain mr. David: though he had told me that, I decided to travel thirty more kilometres to Ntunyiri where most of the Miraa grown there is for the European market.
Here I talked to so many people who were so political about the issue, saying this was being done because Kenyans do not have the whites darling (Raila Odinga) as the president, but the most informed of the people i spoke too was Mwenda Kathoka,
who answered most of my questions like a very informed young man. :what do you know about the miraa ban? :even before the barn, miraa was first declared a drug by the world health organisation in 1980, then this year, NACADA, which is a government tool for fighting drugs did it again. Though it might be political, its politics the right way, before elections in march this year, we(the Kenyans) were told that choices have consequences, and now that we were deaf, we have to learn lessons the hard way: i went on to ask where he sees the future of miraa, ‘miraa will continue to be there but many will have to look for an alternative since as long as there are wrong choice to the international community, miraa will be threatened. Even if there will be many other markets like Yemen which is the biggest miraa market in Asia, they will not transfer the European market to Asia or Africa’
Before I wished Mwenda a goodbye, i asked him what does he think the political choices that he talked about could be affecting next now that they had started with miraa? :next, will be flowers, since the biggest market is in Netherlands, they might ask us one day to take our suspects their and if we do not, they might also not take our flowers. We have also much oil that has been discovered in Kenya and without the international community that oil will remain a liquid like any other. Very soon we will have nothing to import from Europe and America and everything in Kenya will be a counter fit from the East: he continued as he got annoyed by his own words, :the East are more exploiters than the west for since they invaded Africa, tourism is dying by day, Kenya has lost more Elephants than any other time in history and chad lost their last one two year ago, the East has not come to help but take away what we have invested in for decades:
As i wished Mwenda goodbye and went to book by bus back to the city, I was now sure that people in Meru at least have brothers who could research on their behave and tell them the truth like Mwenda.
It was truly a nice weekend well spent with miraa farmers.
By Kobia Koome.