By: Mutwiri Mwenda
The meeting between Miraa growing region leaders and Hon. Mwangi Kiunjuri the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation last month is a great milestone into unlocking the stalemate between leaders especially in Meru County where diversification into other cash crops is a bone of contention.
Last December on 18th CS Mwangi Kiunjuiri met the Miraa Task Force and MPs from the Miraa growing region. They deliberated and agreed on ways to revive the industry. The meeting came after a protracted battle between leaders from Miraa growing region. The county government of Meru had been promoting the diversification agenda, but opponents who include political leaders from the region are crusading for status quo. It’s Miraa and Miraa alone one of the leaders told his constituents.
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi had been threatened that he will be voted out in 2022 when it came to public knowledge that he had requested part of the 2 billion to be used to bailout macadamia and avocado farmers. Leaders from the region also joined their community to oppose the move. Tigania East MP Gichunge Kabeabea, his Igembe North counterpart Maoka Maore and East Africa Assembly MP Mpuru Aburi said it would be wrong to divert the miraa cash.
Those involved in Miraa business said the plant had earned farmers billions of shillings. In 2012 alone farmers and traders had earned an estimated Sh7 billion from exports of the commodity. The Nyambene is considered a miraa hub with about 70,000ha of the crop.
Those who are opposed to diversification and introduction of avocados and macadamia in the region were quoted comparing the price “A pick-up full of miraa which can fetch Sh500,000 comfortably, while a lorry of avocado or macadamia can barely fetch Sh100,000” said a trader.
The Cabinet Secretary published a gazette a notice to establish the Miraa Taskforce Implementation Committee on October last year vide a Kenya Gazzete notice dated October 25, 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta formed this task force to look into miraa farmers’ problems. Concomitantly, funds were allocated to cushion the farmers from the adverse effects of bans of two huge Miraa markets namely, the Netherlands and the UK. The money came in two batches of Sh1 billion and Sh1.2 billion in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years.
The committee comprises of 13 members and is chaired by Kello Harsama, the Administration Secretary at the Agriculture Ministry.
Some of the members of the committee are politician Leon Ndubai representing Tigania West and Clement Muyesu who is the head of Pyrethrum, Miraa and other Industrial Crops Directorate at Agriculture and Food Authority (Afa). Kimathi Munjuri the Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) representative and Jervasius Nyombyekothe who represents the Mbeere Embu Miraa Co-operative Union. Embu Agriculture Executive Anne Nyaga and Meru County Secretary Rufus Miriti as well as David Muthuri who both were in the original committee, Also in the team is Dr Elijah Gichuru, the Coffee Research Centre director, has been seconded by Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Karlo).
Others included appointees of legislators in miraa-growing zones – Kobia Michubu (Igembe North), Joseph Gabriel (Igembe Central), John Mukiira (Tigania East), and Morgan Gitonga (Igembe South)