17 October 2018

Kenya: Meru MCAs Oppose Sharing of Miraa Cash With Other Counties

A standoff is looming over the sharing of Sh906 million allocated to the miraa sector after Meru ward representatives vowed to oppose allocation of the kitty to farmers in Embu and Tharaka-Nithi counties.

Speaking when the implementation committee paid a courtesy call to the Meru County Assembly, majority of the MCAs protested what they termed as "diversion" of the funds to other crops and called for another meeting to iron out pending issues.

The stance taken by the MCAs is likely to delay the disbursement of the funds for the third year in a row, even as the miraa report implementation committee rushes against time to ensure the absorption of the money.

ALLOCATION SLASHED

The National Treasury is said to have slashed the allocation by Sh94 million due to lack of absorption in the previous financial year.

But committee chairman Kello Harsama sought to assure the leaders that the money would be spent on promoting miraa and that the committee has "no cards under the table".

He said Embu and Tharaka-Nithi muguka farmers would get a proportion of the money as per a circular given by the National Treasury.

"We urge leaders to keep politics out of the miraa programmes to avert further implementation delays. We are meeting all stakeholders and we will seek their views before we undertake any project. We are open to oversight and we will not take instructions from individuals," Mr Harsama said.

PROJECTS

He added, "The committee will work with the farmers and other stakeholders to decide the projects and where they will be located."

He raised concern that further politicking would derail the process and delay the absorption of the funds within the current financial year.

Mr Harsama, who is also the secretary of administration at the State Department of Crops in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the money would be spent on capacity building, women and youth empowerment, giving loans to farmers, sinking boreholes as well as building of markets.

The committee is also partnering with the Meru University of Science and Technology to set up a miraa research institute.

But the MCAs, led by Majority Leader Victor Karithi, said they would lobby the government to ensure the money is allocated to Meru farmers only.

"We would like to know at what point Embu and Tharaka-Nithi counties were included in the miraa kitty. We do not want our money to be taken elsewhere. However, this clamour should not be used as an excuse for not releasing the money," Mr Karithi said.

Athiru Gaiti MCA Adamson Muriki said while they are opposed to the splitting of the money, they would not want it to be returned to the Treasury due to underutilisation.

UHURU INTERVENTION

Amwathi MCA John Ntongai said when President Uhuru Kenyatta met Meru leaders in April 2016, he was clear that Sh1 billion was to cushion miraa farmers.

"The President should intervene on which county should get the money. Muguka, which is grown in Embu and Tharaka-Nithi, was not affected by the ban in Europe," Mr Ntongai said.

Antubetwe Kiongo MCA George Kaliunga said miraa farmers would hold a rally to chart the way forward if the plan to allocate part of the money to Embu and Tharaka-Nithi is not revoked.

"We want our MPs to stop being silent while money meant for miraa goes to other counties. We will not take this matter lightly," he said.

Ntunene MCA Jediel Mauta warned the committee against "mixing issues", saying the money should strictly be spent on miraa crop interventions.

The MCAs also called for the involvement of farmers in the choice of saccos to advance credit in order to avert channelling of the money through briefcase financial institutions.

The ward reps are set to meet the committee for another round of meetings to scrutinize projects recommended for implementation.

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