Meru man seeks Uhuru’s approval to grow miraa in State House
A businessman in Meru is seeking an audience with President Uhuru Kenyatta to ask to be allowed to grow Miraa (khat) at State House, Nairobi.
Thirty seven year-old Rajesh Hirani says he is not seeking publicity but is keen to demystify the notion that miraa is a narcotic drug.
“This campaign is solely to show that miraa is not a drug. It is a mild stimulant which when planted, also conserves the environment. I will be very happy if the President allows me to plant miraa at State House. By doing so, he will have shown his solidarity with the people of Kenya, especially miraa farmers,” he said.
He says he will initiate the process of meeting President Kenyatta by Saturday.
“By the end of this week, I will have commenced the process of addressing the official protocol at State House on my mission to plant miraa at the President’s residence,” he said.
“If the President accepts my request, it will be a great signal to the farmers. If he turns it down, I will not give up and I will keep on trying because people are really suffering.”
He is also planning to ask Meru Governor Peter Munya, the Council of Governors chairman, to plant miraa in his official residence.
GREEN GOLD AMBASSADOR
The businessman also wants entertainment spots in the country to set aside sections within their premises where the miraa consumers can chew the plant.
The self-appointed ‘Green Gold Ambassador’ was born and bred in Meru. He says his campaign is to lobby the Kenyan government to open talks with international organisations and countries that have categorised the the plant as a narcotic drug.
“Look at Tanzania, miraa is also banned there. In the spirit of the East African Community, President Kenyatta should talk to his Tanzanian counterpart to have the ban lifted,” he said.
Miraa was banned in United Kingdom with effect from June 24, 2014, rendering the lucrative European market inaccessible to farmers in the larger Meru region.
The ban has rendered thousands of people in the county involved in the industry jobless. These include farmers, miraa packers and drivers of pick-ups that transport the commodity.
“The implication of the ban has been disastrous and enormous. Farmers are not receiving the expected income, parents are unable to afford school fees, the crisis has led to many families losing their livelihoods,” Mr Hirani said.
The plant plays a pivotal cultural role among the Ameru community. It is consumed in social ceremonies like dowry negotiation, acceptance of marriage proposal and also during dispute resolution.
Mr Hirani has been chewing the plant since 1994 and is often spotted in Makutano town purchasing bundles of it, sharing some with his friends and keeping the rest to himself.
At the recently concluded Meru Safari Rally, he stole the show by walking around with a bundle of the plant in his pocket and rallying residents to petition the government to have the ban lifted.
“This is a purely an individual decision. I however appeal to all other like-minded miraa lovers to support this campaign,” he said.