Children are Working on Illicit Drug Farms in Maracha
A big number of school age children in Kijomoro sub-county of Maracha district are missing out on an education as they are enlisted to work on large farms of khat, locally known as mairungi. Patrick Odudo, a concerned resident of the area, tells News-Hapa that the children make their way to the khat farms as early as 7a.m. and spend the entire morning there. “I see them every morning with small cups in which they put the khat they pick,” Odudo says. For their work, these children earn about 300 shillings a day, depending on the quality of their pickings. “Some of the pupils who like school may attend in the afternoons, but most of them cannot be bothered to appear at all,” he says.
Khat or mairungi is one of the drugs that the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Control Bill of 2007 which is yet to be passed into law, proposes to prohibit. This stimulant has traditionally been favoured by truck and bus drivers who claim it keeps them awake during overnight drives. It is also a common starter drug for youth who may or may not go on to consume stronger drugs such as opium. Odudo speaks of a growing number of sprawling mairungi plantations in Kijomoro sub-county of Maracha. It follows then that many of the farmers in this area hope the narcotics bill never sees the light of day. “This is a business that earns them enough money to sustain their families and communities,” Odudo explains.
On the other hand, it is also threatening the health and the future of those same families. As Odudo reveals, many of the children involved in the business are recruited by their own family members. “For example if you have an uncle with a farm, you follow him in the morning and help him pick mairungi at a fee,” says Odudo.