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Khat ban sparks innovation: Meru University students create Miraa and Muguka Wine and Juice

By Harun Mugambi

In a remarkable display of creativity, university students from Meru University of Science and Technology have found an alternative use for miraa (khat) after various woes engulfing the crop including the recent ban on Khat in the coastal region.

The students have been researching value addition for Miraa so that consumers can enjoy other by-products besides chewing leaves like wine, energy drinks, yogurt, and beverages.

In a display of the University’s progress during an agricultural show at Gitoro in Meru, the university students showcased various products made from both miraa and muguka. These include concentrated miraa juice, powder, and wine made from the plant.

Dr Patrick Kinyua, the Head of the project, said they were motivated by the negative perceptions surrounding miraa and wanted to highlight its medicinal purposes.

According to him, their research is based on the pharmacological and herbal attributes of miraa and is more advanced than any other that has ever been done.

“Many researches have been done, but negative research, we want to show the world that something good can come out of Miraa and Muguka” he emphasized.

Dr Kinyua stated that despite miraa being a stimulant, positive research can be done to extract the negative compounds that are detrimental to health hence giving a boost to the crop’s fortunes.

He, however, noted that Kenya Bureau of Standard (KEBS) certification for Miraa wine is pending, and hoped that the process would be expedited.

Mercy chepkoech, a postgraduate student from the university, revealed that they have researched and made concentrated miraa powder and juice, which can be used as a flavour and ingredients in energy drinks, yogurt, and beverages.

“The juice changes colour as it ages,” she asserted.

Miraa powder(yet to be crashed)

Another postgraduate student, Sharon Chemutai, noted that the extracted products have a longer lifespan compared to the leaves or twigs.

The students added that processing and adding value to Miraa and Muguka could reduce the need for fast driving, reducing road carnage attributed to Miraa drivers.

It should be noted that this is not the first attempt to make valuable products from the crop.

In 2021, during a National Miraa Scientific Conference in Nairobi, the Ministry of Agriculture showcased whisky, wine, ‘guarana, juice, and energy drinks produced from miraa; all of which are value addition for the stimulant.

In 2015, Kevin Nthiga, a then-graduate of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, showcased his innovative products during the Nairobi International Trade Fair and the Nyeri chapter awaiting approval by the Kenya Bureau of Standards to sell the product in the Market.

However, the continued classification of miraa as a drug by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) has since hindered the progress made by both parties.

Pictured: Dr Kinyua (centre) guides students during the Meru ASK show :Photo by Harun Mugambi

Despite this, Meru leaders among them Meru Senator and Deputy Senate Speaker Kathuri Murungi, are actively working to have miraa, the region’s top cash crop, declassified as a drug.

Mr Kathuri has sponsored the Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Amendment Bill 2023, which aims to remove Miraa from the list of narcotics and psychotropic substances.

Despite miraa being one of the crops listed in the Crops Act of 2013, Nacada and other agencies have continued to classify it as a drug.

Senator Murungi however, believes that this classification is hindering the miraa industry, preventing value-added miraa products from being licensed.

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