Don’t vilify muguka, says AG Justin Muturi on controversial crop

Justin Muturi

Attorney General Justin Muturi.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Attorney-General Justin Muturi has waded into the raging controversy over the muguka and miraa trade amid sustained pressure by Coast counties to curtail their sale, if not ban them altogether.

Insisting that the crops should not be vilified, Mr Muturi said Kenyans should appreciate the value of muguka and miraa to the people of Embu.

“Let us not try to demonise muguka before we have full scientific facts about it,” the attorney-general said at the Kenya School of Government in Embu during the launch of the Fourth Medium Term Plan 2023-2027.

The official said that the issues that pertain to the muguka trade need a lot of consultation with the views of all stakeholders taken into consideration. He added that the matter has not been brought to him, as the State’s legal advisor, to address it.

"This matter has not found its way to me, when it does, I will look into it," he said

However, he commended the entire Embu leadership, led by Governor Cecily Mbarire, for their stand on muguka.

Muguka farming has for many years been a critical economic activity for residents of Embu, especially in the expansive and semi-arid Mbeere sub-region.

The recent ban imposed on its sale, transportation and distribution in Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi counties has dealt the residents a devastating blow.

Records obtained from the Embu County Government indicate that at least 65,000 residents are engaged in muguka farming.

Coast counties are the biggest markets for the stimulant.

Dry seasons

One kilogramme of muguka retails at between Sh300 and Sh600, with prices topping Sh1,000 per kilo during the dry seasons.

Local residents together with their leaders have dismissed claims by its antagonists at the coast that muguka is a harmful drug that causes impotency, mental illness and disability.

They insisted that muguka and miraa are scheduled crops that are protected under the law.

Ms Mbarire revealed that her administration together with the County Assembly of Embu have engaged their legal teams to defend muguka farmers.

She explained that the botanical name for miraa is catha edulis and the active ingredient is called carthinone.

She added that there is no law distinguishing between miraa and muguka nor prohibiting their sale or consumption.

“Muguka is not a drug; it is a popular variety of miraa which is more affordable and whose carthinone levels are higher than the traditional miraa," the governor stated.

Ms Mbarire further pointed out that the muguka business engages the people of Embu largely as farmers, with those from Meru and other areas in Central Kenya being middlemen and transporters.

The muguka value chain is estimated to contribute to approximately Sh22 billion per year to the economy of Embu.

Muguka farmers, together with other players who have invested heavily in the muguka value chain, stand to lose a lot in terms of revenue and livelihoods.

Sh10.8 million i

Farmers deliver 36 tonnes of muguka to Mombasa every day, earning the county Sh10.8 million in transport levies.

Ms Mbarire said leaders at the coast have refused to meet with their Embu counterparts to discuss the matter.

“Now that the coast leaders don't want to meet us to discuss about muguka, we are waiting the final word from President William Ruto," said Ms Mbarire.

Kiambeere MCA Lenny Masters Mwaniki told the coast governors to respect the rule of law.

"Muguka is not an outlawed crop, and the ban imposed on it by coast governors is null and void," Mr Mwaniki said.