The first unique National Scientific Conference on Khat (Miraa) convened by the Meru County Government and KEMRI and hosted by the University of Nairobi was held from Wednesday, 27th – Thursday 28th October 2021.
The conference was attended by a powerful team of three Cabinet Secretaries led by Interior and Coordination of National Government Dr. Fred Matiang’i, accompanied by Peter Munya (Agriculture) and their Industrialization counterpart, Betty Maina. Present was also the Ombudsman and former Meru Women Representative, Florence Kajuju who chaired the Miraa Parliamentary Committee on Miraa during the 11th Parliamentary Session.
Dr. Matiang’i who pledged to form an intergovernmental committee to look into the conference deliberations and report inform government position moving forward.
Other key guests who joined researchers from KEMRI and other scholars for the two-days conference included local political leaders among them, Members of Parliament from National and County Governments from Meru, business community and other stakeholders from Meru County.
Speaking on behalf of Ag. Director KEMRI, Prof. Sam Kariuki, Ag. Director, Scientific Programmes, Partnerships and Grants Management, Dr. Evans Amukoye said that KEMRI as a national and global premier research Institution has a responsibility to lead a conversation to inform the public the socio-economic and health impact of khat using research evidence with solid scientific data in order to inform policy direction in Kenya.
“KEMRI together with other stakeholders including the County Government of Meru, is keen to see a plan of action that explores and provides a better understanding on the impact of khat and medicinal applications through research evidence,” he said.
He regretted that the controversy about miraa in the country had inadvertently made scientists and researchers shy away from venturing into this area. “It is my conviction that scientists must venture into the unconventional and uncomfortable space in search of answers,” he concluded.
The Conference chair, Prof. Charles Mbogo described the conference as a “unique gathering consisting of a mix of scientists, policy makers, governmental and non-governmental actors, all committed to tackling the pressing health, nutritional and social economic issues impacted by miraa.”
He noted that the journey has started with conference theme “Research evidence of the impact of Khat (Miraa) on Health, Social and Economic Wellbeing” and is “devoted to tackling and providing practical experiences and best lessons from stakeholders in the production, commercialization and value addition of miraa”.