Fate of muguka, miraa farmers hangs on President's directive

Peter Chomba harvests Muguka from his farm in Mugamba Ciura within Kirinyaga county, June 1, 2021. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Ruto directed Linturi to form a team to address the raging debate on miraa and muguka. Some leaders accuse Deputy Senate Speaker of fueling the ban on muguka.

The quest to save miraa and muguka farmers and traders now lies on the hands of a consultative forum to be established by the Ministry of Agriculture.

With the debate on whether to ban or protect the produce raging, the team will have to find a middle ground amid the push for more counties to join the ban of the sale and consumption of muguka in some coastal counties.

On Monday, President William Ruto moved in to calm tensions and broker a solution to a problem that is threatening to cripple miraa and muguka farming.

While the farmers and traders see the produce as the source of their livelihoods, others feel they threaten the future of the young.

President Ruto held a meeting with Embu leaders and vowed to address the concerns raised on the ban.

Led by Governor Cecily Mbarire, they insisted muguka is a variety of miraa and is a scheduled crop under the Crops Act, 2013, and the Miraa Regulations, 2023.

“This means that mũgũka is recognised by the national legislation, and any other laws or orders that contradict national legislation are null and void,” they argued.

The laws were passed by the National Assembly and the Senate with the concurrence of the Council of Governors. They provide for a standard code of practice, which regulates the farming, licencing, promotion, transportation and selling.

“To address the concerns of all parties and stakeholders the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock is directed to convene a consultative forum to address concerns raised and agree on the implementation of the Miraa/Mũgũka Regulations, 2023,” said President Ruto.

The national government also committed to allocate Sh500 million in the next financial year for value addition.

But this did not quell the debate, with some Embu leaders blames the ban on their counterparts in Meru.

According to them, the miraa variety grown in Meru has lost market due to the cheap but much-valued muguku grown in Embu.

Embu Deputy Governor Kinyua Mugo accused the Senate Deputy Speaker Kathuri Murungi, who is the Meru Senator, of orchestrating the suppression of mùgùka.

“We are not happy with his assertions when he met the Coastal leaders. He should rally his fellow leaders from Meru to support us,” Mugo told farmers at Ena market during protests against the ban.

The chairman of the Mberembu Cooperative Union, Jervasius Kothe, accused Murungi of inciting Coast leaders.

“I have spoken to the Meru farmers through the union leadership and they are with us, but the Senator must withdraw his sentiments of calling mùgùka ‘kitu ingine’,” he said.

He said farmers from Embu and Kirinyaga would not relent in fighting for the source of their livelihoods.

Given protection

Speaking to traders at Mecca Mùgùka Market in Mbeere South, Kothe said the crop had brought economic growth in the semi-arid region.

Former Senator Lenny Kivuti, who held a meeting at Kiritiri, dismissed claims by the Coast leaders that mùgùka is a drug.

Nyambene Miraa Traders Association chairman, Kimathi Munjuri, wondered why they were left out the the State House meeting. “We feel left out but we want muguka to be given protection, alongside miraa.”

He said national laws supersede county government regulations, and accused Governors Abdulswamad Nassir (Mombasa) and Gideon Mung’aro (Kilifi) of breaking the law.

Munjuri said although Nassir met Nyamita, Governors Mbarire and Kawira Mwangaza (Meru) and legislators, he went ahead and outlawed muguka.

“These governors must be held to account, there is only one government,” Munjuri stated.

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