By Eastern Newspaper Correspondent
The Kiamuriuki region of Tharaka Nithi has made a name due to its notoriety in the bhang trade.
Bhang peddlers and users worth their salt have made Kiamuriuki one of their major sources of the substance.
So great is the demand for the bhang that some residents have turned it into a cash cow, and have dedicated sections of farms and forested areas for its growth.
Some have devised methods of growing it in the middle of their maize, coffee, and other plantations, away from the prying eyes of local Nyumba Kumi members, chiefs, and people who would tell on them.
Caren Kimathi, a resident of Kiamuriuki, readily admits that the region has become the number one in bhang growing, and supplying a large number of peddlers, within and without the area.
“You will be amazed to know that Kiamuriuki is a favorite market for peddlers from Magumoni, Kibugua, Ikuu, Kirege, Chera, Kaarani, and other markets, and even nearer trading centers in Embu County,” said Caren.
She said the buyers come in cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and on foot.
“In the dead of the night, we often hear boda bodas zooming past. They know law enforcement officers are not that active at night, so they come to get their supplies very late at night, or very early in the morning,” she told The Eastern.
Ben Mbaka said the vast forested areas of Kiamuriuki offers the perfect grounds for the bhang growth and sale to thrive.
Ben says the Kiamuriuki growers are under the employment of loaded businessmen in the county, and some are in Nairobi.
“We have a situation where the bhang farm hands grow and nurture it to maturity. Then the owners of the farms send buyers to the farms to collect their consignments to supply different markets, including in neighboring Meru County,” he said.
Despite the security officers combing vast areas of the forests, part of Mt Kenya Forest, they have not managed to rid the region of all bhang sitting on large acres.
“It is very difficult for the police to know where the bhang plantations are located. Actually, even many locals are unaware of the plantations, but those like us who know the Kiamuriuki like the back of our hands know where the bhang is, and who owns what,” Ben added but denied he consumes or sells it.
He said he is aware of individuals who not long ago; did not have anything to their name, but now owned cars and big houses from the proceeds of the bhang.
Police have on a number of occasions combed the Mt Kenya forest and uprooted and destroyed bhang worth millions of shillings.
But many bhang farms remain secret, as some are situated deep in the forest, where there are minimal human activities.
Tharaka Nithi County Commissioner Beverly Opwora has declared total war against the drug, saying her administration will spare no efforts to rid the region of the substance, which is a threat to livelihoods and health of residents.
Ms Opwora said already more than 11 bhang dealers had been arrested and a lot of bhang confiscated, and efforts to apprehend more culprits had been escalated.
The Atiriri Bururi ma Chuka Community Conservation, a group involved in the conservation of forest resources in Tharaka Nithi, said there were some residents who were growing bhang in the forests.
This bhang fetches its owners millions of shillings after supplies to Kathageri, Magumoni, Mugwe, Katharaka, and other regions in a radius of tens of kilometers.
The increased surveillance by police and impounding large quantities of bhang had forced some peddlers and owners to go underground, which had as a result led to a shortage of the product.