Illicit brewers turn to farming as raids eradicate trade in notorious Maragua village

Police officers display nabbed jerricans full of illicit brew in Maisha Mathi village. [Boniface Gikandi Standard]

There is relief in Maisha Mathi village in Maragua following the transformation of former illicit brewers, with the majority turning to horticulture and dairy farming.

The brewing culture is said to have been rife since 1972, with most security officers posted to in Maragua division unable to stamp out the menace, leading to their transfer.

Today, the village's former chang’aa brewing fields have been converted into horticulture farms where water is pumped from streams.

Ten years ago, the village in Ichagaki ward was regarded as a crime den for brewers, and security agents conducted constant impromptu raids that failed to wipe out the illicit businesses.

Some of the reformed brewers, Duncan Murago and John Ngugi, are now engaged in farming pumpkins, french beans, and sukuma wiki sold in Maragua town and beyond.

Murago said the raids saw them surrender to the local administration after a series of arrests.

“I am now a farmer and advise the youth to follow their path and stop criminal activities,” said Murago.

Peter Kamau, a resident, said the swampy areas used in criminal activities were transformed into horticulture farms engaging tens of the youths in jobs.

Kamau, a father of three, said the entire village had earned a bad name owing to the crude activities with the illicit brews merchants.

Entry into the village was not easy for the police as they were monitored through informants tapped by Maragua police station to provide regular reports of strangers and activities in the area.

“The brews from the village used to be transported to distribution spots in Thika, Kenol and Nairobi, as the security agents were allegedly compromised by the rogue merchants leaking crucial information,” said Kamau.

The journey to eradicate the brewing activities was launched in 2021 after the Ministry of Interior transferred police officers based at the station.

Mary Njambi, a resident, said that signs to deal with brewers succeeded with the overhaul of the police officers and chiefs protecting the merchants.

Ms Njambi said it was a new beginning as the crime rate drastically dropped and Maisha Maithi got a new life.

“Today there are investors looking for land to buy in the village for being close to Maragua town,” said Njambi.

Murang’a County Police Commander David Mathiu said the village has changed following close cooperation with the local residents in efforts to fight alcoholism.

Mathiu said the battle to end the criminal activities in Maisha Maithi has been won through combined efforts between the community and the police.

The Maragua police, Mathia said, are under instructions to ensure the village remains under surveillance to keep criminal activities at bay.

“It is a blessing that we have brought an end the manufacture of the brews in Maisha Mathi village, among other areas, including the banks of Chania River,” said Mathiu.

Area MCA Hillary Muigai says the youth are fully engaged in farming business.

In May, police raided banks of Chania River in search of the brewers at the border of Murang’a and Kiambu counties.