Govt called on to ban miraa

July 13, 2008 12:00 am

, MERU, July 13 – Deputy National Assembly Speaker Farah Maalim has proposed a ban on the production and consumption of miraa (khat) and at the same time suggested that it be classified as a drug.

Maalim, who said over the weekend that the continued use of the commodity has adversely affected education standards in some areas, has promised to mobilise MPs to bring a motion in Parliament seeking to ban the growth and consumption of miraa.

Speaking at Kariene primary school during the Central Imenti district schools prize giving day, Maalim said education standards were especially low in the miraa growing zone of Meru North and in North Eastern province, where miraa is consumed in large quantities.

“Miraa is ruining education in Meru North and North Eastern province. Ntonyiri area which produces large quantities, for instance, is the most backward,” said the Deputy Speaker.

He stressed that it was time Kenya embraced the United Nations classification of miraa as a drug.

At the same time, the Eastern provincial director of education Beatrice Adu said there are high levels of child labour in the province, especially in miraa growing areas.

In a speech read on her behalf by the provincial deputy director of quality assurance and standards officer Jane Njogu, Adu urged all the education stakeholders to join the crusade against drug and substance abuse, saying they contributed to indiscipline in schools.

There have been efforts to slap a ban on it in the past, but these have been ruled out by medical research negating its effects as harmful.

Reports released by the World Health Organisation, the National Council for Science and Technology and scientists in Egypt and Britain, say the effects of miraa were too mild to warrant a ban.

Under World Trade Organisation rules, a country cannot ban a fresh produce without giving scientific proof of the harm it can do.

Miraa is widely used in the country, and the crop grown in Kenya is mainly exported to Sudan and the UK.

A bag of the crop retails for between Sh2,500 and Sh3,500, and if a ban were effected Kenya could lose up to Sh19 billion and an estimated 500,000 jobs a year.

A miraa bush matures within six years of planting, after which the tree gives a weekly harvest during the rainy season. It needs little, if any, spraying or fertiliser, making growing it one of the most profitable farm activities.

In the US, Sweden, Tanzania, Norway, Canada and Eritrea however, it has been outlawed for health concerns.


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