Murang’a or Fort hall, as it was known in the olden days, is a vibrant town in central Kenya, now the capital of Murang’a County. With its breathtaking sceneries of hills, forests, rivers and valleys, the town has its fair share of tourist attractions.
Most people misspell it as Muranga but this town, neighbouring Kiambu County to the south and the home of major rivers such as Mathioya, which flows to River Tana, is spelt Murang’a.
The great Aberdare Ranges, which form an important water catchment area for the city of Nairobi, have their home in Murang’a while the famous Ndakaini dam, which provides Nairobi city dwellers with water, finds its roots here as well.
Being close to the tea-growing Kiambu, Murang’a has also cut a niche for itself in this business. Expansive farmlands of tea plantations paint a picturesque view that is beholding to the first-time visitor.
But this is about to come to an end as farmers in Mathioya and Kiharu begin to uproot their tea crop in favour of the stimulant, khat (miraa) whose cultivation has been expanding here outside its traditional growing areas in northern Meru.
For a long time now tea has been the second major foreign income earner after tourism in Kenya and poor market prices and management of concerned authorities responsible for marketing the product has seen farmers lose faith in the cash crop. Most are now uprooting their tea plants and replacing them with miraa which they say is less labour-intensive, has higher yields and more than triple the income they get from the sale of tea leaves.
At this rate, Murang’a’s beautiful sceneries of expansive tea plantations will be replaced by one of the most popular stimulants in the region. Next time you are in town prepare yourself for a totally different scenario – one we think will not be all that pleasing to the eye. Let us hear your thoughts.