Meru farmers ask State to give miraa special attention

Farmers Musyoka Moshe, Levi Kigunda and Kobia Mwirichia tend to a miraa farm. [Olivia Murithi, Standard]

Miraa farmers and other players in the sub-sector want a miraa development board and a research institute established.

A section of stakeholders in the lucrative sector that has suffered major setbacks in recent years, including a ban on the crop in Somalia and other major markets, said a board to manage issues affecting miraa and a research centre would go a long way to grow the sector.

Former Igembe North MP Joseph Eruaki said it is important that the government establishes the board to look into issues affecting the production, processing, and marketing of miraa.

“It is important that the government comes up with a Kenya Miraa Development Board to look into issues of agronomy, and value addition among others,” Mr Eruaki said.

Eruaki said the wish of farmers and other players like transporters and consumers was to increase production, hence the need for a research institute to come up with ways of increasing production.

“Within that board, we need also to have a miraa research institute,” said Eruaki who, while serving as MP between 2013-2017 facilitated the donation of land to Meru University of Science and Technology to among other uses, spearhead research on miraa.

“In my proposal, Meru University should be an anchor for miraa research development. There are many varieties of miraa. We need science to come up with the understanding of those varieties, where they are grown, and where they grow best,” Eruaki, an agricultural expert, said.

“As far as miraa is concerned, the government has never taken an interest to develop the crop. There is nothing recorded as far as which ecological zones you grow which varieties. When you have a miraa development institute it can help the farmers so that they are encouraged to grow varieties according to the ecological zones,” he stated.

For a long time, experienced miraa consumers such as Eruaki, and former Nyambene MP Joseph Mutuuria among others have maintained the crop was medicinal and a libido booster.

“Almost all varieties have medicinal value. From Kemri research, miraa has strong antioxidants, compounds that fight cancer. Then we have miraa with strong antibiotic properties. If there is a strong follow-up research, we can have the whole of the miraa plant utilised for medical purposes,” he said.

Eruaki said research on miraa will boost production and consumption and empower farmers and others along the value chain and ultimately improve the country’s economy.

“We need research so that elements that can be extracted from miraa can be obtained. There should be a way of processing so that we can get various products from miraa,” he said.

He said there were consumers who used different varieties to either boost or reduce their appetite for food.

“We will also have industries in the area, such as the pharmaceutical industry. We need research to improve how it is consumed, packaged, and transported without affecting the quality. This will eliminate the urge to drive at high speed to reach different destinations while still fresh,” said Eruaki.

Dr James Mithika who owns a large miraa farm has welcomed the idea to establish a research institute.