Tanzania’s lush green farms that supply Kenya with bhang
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He assured us that moving the cargo will not pose any problem because they have ‘local arrangements’ with police officers in their pay. Apparently, the officers get a cut from every farmer once the crop is harvested. “The officers have the names and contacts of all the bhang farmers. Anyone who wants to venture into the business must register at the police station to be safe,” Martin claimed. “To be safe, you must come clean and declare the particulars of your farm and what you earn after each harvest, otherwise if they discover you have been dishonest, they will come down on you so hard and you would probably end up in jail,” he told us. Since Martin did not have enough marijuana that was ready for harvest, he introduced us to another farmer, a Mr Jacob, who is based in the neighbouring Ikoma village, about one kilometre from his home. Jacob has a two-acre farm whose crop would be ready for harvesting within a month. He says he has some ready stock however, but cannot sell it because a Kenyan buyer had already placed an order for it. The bhang is in house, packed in heaps they refer to as ‘broom’ and ready for transportation. “I can spare a few brooms for you to appreciate your visit and for considering me as a supplier. It will be a shame to go back home empty-handed after coming this far,” said Jacob. He sells us 10 brooms. He also assures us that it would be safe to move the commodity within Tanzania, even mentioning a few names of clients from Kenya whom he has been dealing with for years, and have never been nabbed. According to Jacob, once the brooms are packed in sacks, they are loaded into lorries that is loaded about three-quarter full with the bhang. The remaining space in the lories is taken up with omena or charcoal, and driven into Kenya. “There is no problem on our side. But you have to make sure that you take care of your side to avoid run-ins with the police,” Jacob tells us, adding that some dealers are even escorted by police officers from Kenya. He nods when we remind him that in our case, the boss is an MCA who has connections within the police, and is mainly worried about movement of the cargo on the Tanzanian side. We bid Jacob goodbye and make our way back to Kenya, passing through other bhang farms, with our point man explaining to us the details about the owners of the farms, and when and where they sell. After a three-hour tour of the two villages, we make our way back home, openly carrying the brooms of bhang we had paid for. At the border, we change our route as advised by our point man who carries the bhang packed in a 50-kilogramme cement bag. We cross the border and finally get to the point our journey had started. We load the luggage into the car and begin the trip back to Migori town through Piny-Oyie, Masara and Migori-Isbania road, passing through two police roadblocks unnoticed. It is at this point that we inform Migori County Police Commander Joseph Nthenge of our successful mission, and request to meet him and handover the illegal substance. During the handing over, Nthenge admits that fighting the smuggling of bhang into the country through the border has been a big challenge due to inadequate officers to man the border, as well as lack of cooperation from their counterparts in Tanzania. “We know bhang is illegal in Tanzania, and we have tried several times to engage our counterparts to help us from their side, but they have been very reluctant and do not only do want to attend any meeting we invite them to,” he said. Tightening the noose Martin further claimed that there was no political goodwill in the fight against the drug, such that any time the police tighten the noose, politicians come out to criticise them for harassing other people. “We have discovered a few loopholes and want to change the way we operate. We know Migori may not be the main market for the bhang, just the highway,” he said. Bhang farmers at Ikoma and Kogaja villages claimed that they got into the trade after their stint in tobacco was messed by their government. “We used to spend nine months in our farms growing tobacco, only to harvest and find no market. Bhang takes two to three months to mature and fetches more money compared to tobacco,” said Jacob.