By Margaret Kalekye
The United Kingdom has welcomed the formation of a new task force by President Uhuru Kenyatta to look into the ills afflicting the Miraa sub-sector.
British high commissioner Nic Hailey, said he was ready to work with the new team.
“I welcome the announcement by His Excellency President Kenyatta of a new Presidential taskforce on this issue. I look forward to working closely with the taskforce in line with the UK’s strong commitment to development and poverty reduction in Meru County.” Said the envoy in a statement.
The miraa farmers have suffered with their revenues dwindling after the United Kingdom slapped a ban on the commodity.
The ban took effect on June 24, 2014.
President Kenyatta who met Meru county officials Friday, announced a budgetary allocation of Ksh 1 billion to cushion Miraa growers from the challenges brought about by ban of Miraa in the European markets.
The British envoy pledged his government’s support to help the county develop plans for alternative livelihoods.
“We have continued engaging closely with Meru’s leaders in recent months on this subject: I held talks last week with a delegation of Meru MPs and have discussed the issue with the Governor” said Hailey.
He noted that UK has been working hard to sensitize the people of Meru on alternative livelihoods and that it funded an expert study last year in the county for miraa substitute.
He added “As one of Kenya’s biggest bilateral donors, with almost Ks 40 billion of UK aid per year, the UK supports a range of development programmes in Meru county.
President Kenyatta said he instructed the Cabinet that discussed government budgetary priorities in Naivasha last week for the next financial year to include the funds to support Miraa like other cash crops.
The President spoke at State House Nairobi when he signed into law a Bill that will categorize Miraa as a cash crop.
The amended Crops act opens doors for the crop to benefit from government budgetary funding.
The President regretted the tribulations which the farmers were undergoing since the ban and assured that the Government would do everything possible to ensure farmers reaped maximum benefits from their produce.
“This historical law we have signed today giving Miraa the legal backing as a cash crop will also give the crop the foundation of recognition in formal government structures,” he added.