MIRAA AND THE TALES OF MERU.
Mention miraa and somebody cannot think of it without Meru coming to the picture. I had read about miraa before and had not seen it until the first time I came over to Nairobi. To catch me by surprise was the outcome of reality that some of my friends would end up being from Meru and I tell you I love them dearly. Miraa has quite a number of names beside the scientific name Catha edulis. In Nairobi, stories about Khat only get mentioned in classrooms and research centers, to this plant chewers, it is called veve or mogoka and nothing like chewing, it is all about “kuchana veve.” In Meru as a matter of fact, young children learn of miraa chewing when toddlers, chewing is but part of their DNA, a unique form of distinguishing them from other Kenyan communities. After all, Kisiis have their matoke and Kalenjins their mursik without forgetting Luos and their fish/omena commonly known as kisumu boys. To Meru, it is all about miraa.
Now last week I had a chance to have a chat with one of my Meru counterparts and the topic of miraa could not go unmentioned during that talk. I was of the idea that after all miraa is not necessary for human beings hence we can stop chewing the buds and leaves as though we are herbivores. I had just sparked a lecture series of all sorts of good tales about the plant. In Kericho it’s about tea planting as is of Kisii highlands, as a substitute of such, the Merus decided otherwise and went into miraa farming. It is amazing on how you can sit to enjoy the scene of the plant chewer with this 500 ml Sprite drink and a small packet of ground nuts in the hand. After the end of 4 hours, three quarters of the drink remains not drank while only 4 nuts could have been taken in the process. For the leaves, quite a good fortune could have been chewed, and we call that a hobby. Fun clips go online everyday and one might have already gone there too or is on the way of a miraa chewer sleeping while chewing air because of the ever chewing nature.
How is the feeling?
I am told that the beauty of kuchana is to add small amounts of the leaves to the developing “cud” in the mouth while after some minutes; you can add a small bite of the nut or drink. Seeing the biting of the groundnuts, someone can mistake it with the biting of Nigerian Kola nut. Possibly, those who chew like the feeling and sensation of “high” that develops gradually. My Meru friend tells me that the feeling is not necessarily like that of alcohol but it is like mild intoxication. “As you chew”, he further tells me, “you become very creative and innovative.” He informs me that the creativity is even better if you have a “viable” chewing counterpart beside. You could literally be living the future to come while chewing this “magic plant.”
This same magic, has brought the people in Meru a fortune, I travelled there some months back and I can ascertain that it has brought economic gain to the citizens of that place. Recently, it was the number one foreign exchange earner for the Meru people until injunctions were placed on the export of the plant by major importers as Britain. Since then, it has been finding new markets locally and to our close neighbours. Whatever way it goes, you could be better without chewing that stuff. In other words, it is not that necessary for your own good. That is all I can say about miraa to you. To the farmer in Meru, we need enough food to sustain us as Kenya and Africa, if you can be solution to our food problem, we will celebrate you for real.