, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 2 – Education Science, Technology and Research Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi says the government cannot conduct research on the impact of miraa on its consumers anytime soon due to lack of funds.
Kaimenyi told an ad-hoc parliamentary committee probing issues related to miraa that the ministry will however request public universities to consider preparing a research proposal which can be considered during the planning for the next budget cycle.
“We did not request for such an amount of money in our education budget, but we can request our education and research institutions to consider that because that is what they do on regular basis,” the Education Secretary said.
“That could take some time if you were to undertake a research; it is not something that you can do within a short time.”
Homa Bay County Women Representative Gladys Wanga and her Machakos counterpart Susan Musyoka said the government should use institutions such as the Kenya Institute of Public Policy and Research Analysis (KIPPRA) to conduct immediate research on the socio-economic benefits of the crop.
The members of the committee were concerned that even though they have been receiving presentations from stakeholders on the accumulated matter of miraa industry, the committee had not received information to fully understand the dynamics involved in the industry.
The House team led by Meru County Women Representative Florence Kajuju was constituted by the National Assembly last month to research and establish whether the green plant’s side effects supersede its economic value.
The National Assembly formed the 13-member team after the United Kingdom Secretary of State for the Home Department Theresa May said sale of miraa would be banned after the government announced it would classify the herb as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
On Monday, Kaimenyi also said a report by County Directors of Education in Mandera and Garissa Counties on the impact of the crop on society does not meet the scientific requirements to give a comprehensive Ministry position on the socio-economic impact of the miraa growing in Kenya.
“We keep talking evidence based decisions, but if you have no research findings then you can’t take decisions just willy-nilly like that it must be based on facts,” he added. “If you were to tell people to ban something or to go for alternative means of earning their income then you must justify it.”
The research revealed that miraa users in the two counties use 85 percent of their daily budgets on miraa at the expense of family needs and further claims that the crop affects Early Childhood Development which Kaimenyi disagreed with saying the outcome was opposite in miraa growing zones like Nyambene where miraa users were found to cater for their families needs and enjoy better performance in various stages of school life.
Kaimenyi who is a Njuri Ncheke elder told the committee that he has never chewed miraa even though he grew up in area where it is grown and its consumption is common among locals. He said the respected community leadership organ among the Meru had been cautioning against under-age use of the herb.
He said research he had done revealed that the people who chew miraa alongside sugary items like sweets or soda were likely to develop gum decay and cavities than those who consumed the herb without any accompaniments.
“When you design a study, there is something you call excretion criteria. If you want to study the effects of miraa you can’t study in compilation with somebody drinking other things or taking bhang, marijuana or any other substances because this other things will be considered as confounding factors which might have similar effects or make it worse; otherwise your findings might be criticized by others and in a big way,” said Kaimenyi.