Socio-cultural changes in the farming and use of miraa catha edulis in igembe, meru; 1940 -2014
Kathata, Bernard Kiunga
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The study examined socio-cultural changes in the farming and use of Miraa (Catha edulis) in Igembe District of Meru County in Kenya from 1940-2014. The Meru comprises of nine sub-ethnic groups namely Chuka, Muthambi, Mwimbi, Igoji, Miutine, Imenti, Tigania, Igembe and Tharaka. Miraa is grown intensively in Meru by the Igembe and Tigania sub-ethnic groups. It is of prime economic importance for the region as it feeds a growing national and international market. However, it is a controversial substance because whereas the World Health Organisation (WHO) and several western countries have condemned it as a “drug”, the Igembe and Tigania hold it dearly, emphasizing not just its economic role but also its place in the community’s socio-cultural traditions. The literature review was based on the general overview on the importance of Miraa to the socio-cultural life of the Igembe community, the changes in it’s farming and use. The research was based on the socio conflict and the socio-capital approaches as complementary to each other in order to examine the traditional farming and its use; interrogate the reasons for the changes and assess its effects on these changes. Primary and secondary data were used to demonstrate the role that Miraa played and continues to play in the socio and cultural growth of the Igembe community. The researcher employed questionnaire method, face to face interviews, standardized interviews and observations. This enabled him to assess the possible changes, effects and aspects of transformation over time and space. A study sample from Igembe district comprising of Njuri Ncheke elders, Miraa businessmen, members of the public administration (formerly provincial administration), primary school Headteachers, members of the clergy were interviewed as key informants. The study examined the enormous variety evident in the social life of the Igembe Miraa and the role of Miraa in the creation and manipulation of values. The research distinguished many different types of Miraa and how the users associate themselves with certain varieties suggesting why some varieties are more valued culturally and economically than others. The findings were analyzed using descriptive methods. It was expected that the findings of the study would make the government of Kenya see the need to have policy framework on the farming and use of Miraa. The results of the study were also found to be useful to academics for further research especially to the researchers studying roles of plants on the culture of different communities in Kenya.