Alexander Mwenda, a seasoned farmer with twenty years of experience in cultivating miraa, has made the difficult decision to cut down his three-acre miraa trees.
The exorbitant levies imposed on the crop before it reaches the market have made it economically unviable for him to continue its cultivation.
Once a thriving industry, miraa farming has seen a decline in returns, forcing many farmers like Mwenda to seek alternative crops for sustenance. Mwenda, who used to harvest miraa valued at over Sh50,000, expressed disappointment in the government’s lack of intervention to address the challenges faced by miraa farmers.
“This sector has been infiltrated by cartels who control the market, leaving the farmer with peanuts,” lamented Mwenda. The dominance of these cartels has severely impacted the profitability of miraa farming, resulting in diminishing incomes for the farmers.
The plight of the Nyambene residents, who heavily depended on miraa cultivation, is reflected in the increasing number of farmers abandoning the crop in favor of more lucrative alternatives. The shift to other crops is driven by the need to secure better financial prospects and escape the struggles associated with miraa farming.
Mwenda’s decision to uproot his miraa trees has had a significant impact on his family’s livelihood. Unable to sustain the high costs of private education, he was compelled to transfer his children from private schools to public institutions. The financial strain caused by the declining miraa industry has forced many farmers to make similar sacrifices, compromising the education and well-being of their families.
Moses Lichoro, the chairman of the Miraa Growers and Traders Association, shed light on the dire situation faced by miraa farmers. Lichoro emphasized that the exorbitant taxes and levies imposed on miraa in Kenya and Somalia have pushed farmers to the brink of collapse.
“When a kilogram of miraa, preferred in the Somalia market, reaches the consumer in Mogadishu, traders have to bear charges and levies amounting to Sh1,928,” explained Lichoro. These charges include handling and shipping fees of Sh569.20 (USD4), government export levy and permit fee of Sh7, a commission of Sh640.35 for faceless cartels, and an import duty and cargo handling charges of Sh711.50 (USD5).
Lichoro appealed to the governments of Kenya and Somalia to reconsider these burdensome levies, which have become a major deterrent to the sustainability and profitability of miraa farming. Without urgent intervention, the industry faces a bleak future, and the livelihoods of countless farmers hang in the balance.