Muguka Farming: Challenges and Strategic Farming to Overcome Bans and Hefty Fees.

Muguka, a kind of khat plant (Catha edulis), is a significant cash crop in Embu, Kenya, especially in Mbeere and nearby areas. The Kenyan Crop Act, which lists muguka among the recognized cash crops, supports this identification.  Muguka, which has become an important source of revenue for many small-scale farmers in the area, is well-known for its energizing properties when chewed. Notwithstanding its economic significance, Muguka farmers are facing significant obstacles as a result of recent changes, which include bans and higher taxes in some counties. This article examines the situation of Muguka farming and suggests methods to assist farmers in overcoming these obstacles.

Traditional Medicinal Uses of Muguka

Scientific data supports muguka’s traditional significance due to its therapeutic characteristics in multiple ways. Both conventional medicine and scientific literature have extensively documented its stimulant and mood-enhancing effects, digestive advantages, possible pain relief, and antibacterial capabilities. It is crucial to remember that, similar to other khat varieties, excessive Muguka usage can have negative effects, including addiction and long-term health problems. Some of the traditional medicinal uses of Muguka include the following:

Stimulant and Mood Enhancer: According to research, khat’s primary component, cathinone, has psychoactive qualities akin to amphetamines that can elevate mood and increase alertness (Odenwald et al., 2011). For these reasons, muguka is often used for its energizing properties. Chewing the leaves is said to boost mood, enhance concentration, and increase alertness.

Digestive and Appetite Effects: Users of khat experience improved appetite and digestion, according to a study by Nyongesa et al. (2014). This is likely because khat stimulates the central nervous system.  Muguka is thought to enhance appetite and lessen gastrointestinal distress symptoms.

Antimicrobial Properties: Al-Motarreb et al. (2002) research provides a scientific basis for the traditional usage of khat extracts in treating infections by demonstrating their antibacterial characteristics. The results of the investigation showed that the extracts prevented the growth of some bacterial strains, indicating possible uses in medicine.

The Muguka Economy in Embu County and Its Environs.

Muguka farming has become popular in Embu and its environs because of its strong market demand and comparatively low maintenance requirements. Chewing the leaves of the plant is highly desirable, especially in cities, as they have stimulating qualities. According to a 2019 study by Muthoni and Ngugi, muguka cultivation considerably raises household earnings in Mbeere, promoting local economies and supplying financial stability.

Challenges Faced by Muguka Farmers

Even though muguka cultivation has financial advantages, the recent developments are posing a growing danger to it. Farmers are finding it challenging to reach conventional markets because some counties have either outlawed the sale of muguka or placed onerous taxes on it. The limitations have caused many farmers to have less access to markets and to make less money. Moreover, Muguka’s marketability has been further hampered by the social stigma and unfavorable opinions attached to it, mostly because of its psychoactive properties. Kimani et al. (2020) showed that Muguka’s market base expansion efforts are frequently hampered by societal perceptions against the product.

Strategies for Muguka Farmers

Muguka farmers have several long-term options for addressing these issues:

  1. Diversification of Crops

Alternative Crops: Adding alternative cash crops to crop portfolios, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains, can diversify revenue sources and lessen reliance on Muguka. According to research conducted by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), crop diversity can improve small-scale farmers’ food security and economic stability.

Value-Added Products: Farmers could consider using muguka to make value-added products like powdered muguka for traditional medicinal applications, dried muguka leaves packaged as herbal teas, or even products like energy drinks. These products can expand market reach and lessen reliance on the sale of fresh leaves.

  1. Collective Bargaining and Cooperative Formation

Cooperatives:  Establishing cooperatives can improve access to markets, increase negotiating power, and lower costs through shared resources. According to an International Labour Organization (ILO) study, cooperatives can greatly enhance small-scale farmers’ standard of living by giving them better access to resources and markets.

Collective Marketing: Farmers can reach wider and farther markets, split the expense of transportation, and get higher prices for their produce by combining their resources.

  1. Advocacy and Engagement with Policy Makers:

Policy Engagement: Farmers should engage with national and local legislators to support just laws that take Muguka farming’s economic importance into account. By attending stakeholder meetings and agricultural forums, they can have a greater voice. Farmers must participate in the policy-making process to guarantee that their interests are represented, according to the Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF).

Public Awareness Campaigns: Public and officials’ opinions can be changed and more balanced laws can result from educating them about the advantages of muguka farming and the socioeconomic effects of restrictive policies.

  1. Exploring New Markets:

Non-Traditional Markets: To promote muguka for its possible health advantages, farmers might go into non-traditional markets like those for wellness and herbal products. Identifying nations or locations with a need for natural stimulants through market research can be advantageous.

Export Markets: New opportunities may arise from looking into possible export markets where Muguka is allowed. For example, a few Middle Eastern nations and areas with sizable African diasporas could be prospective markets. To gain access to these markets, farmers might have to abide by rules and regulations from other countries. Guidelines for specialized products seeking to access international markets are available from the International Trade Centre (ITC).

  1. Improving Farming Practices:

Sustainable Agriculture: Muguka can become more competitive by using sustainable farming methods to raise yields and enhance quality. Methods like managing soil health, conserving water, and practicing organic farming are crucial. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report that emphasizes the advantages of sustainable agriculture in terms of increased output and environmental resilience.

Research and Development: Productivity and resilience can be increased by working with agricultural research organizations to create improved farming methods and Muguka cultivars resistant to disease.


Muguka has a complex role in Kenya’s agricultural and medical landscape but is sometimes overshadowed by its contentious image. It’s important to avoid completely demonizing this crop, even though its psychotropic qualities and potential for addiction when taken excessively call for prudence. Rather, a more comprehensive approach that recognizes its traditional therapeutic benefits as well as its economic relevance ought to be taken.

Navigating the current regulatory environment requires the use of strategic farming practices, policy advocacy, crop diversification, and market discovery. By providing farmers with these tactics, we can guarantee that Muguka keeps supporting a large number of people’s livelihoods while encouraging its ethical use.


  1. Al-Motarreb, A., Baker, K., & Broadley, K. J. (2002). Khat: Pharmacological and medical aspects and its social use in Yemen. Phytotherapy Research, 16(5), 403-413.
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (2022). Sustainable agriculture: Techniques for improving productivity and resilience.
  3. International Labour Organization (ILO). (2018). Cooperatives and rural development: Enhancing livelihoods of small-scale farmers.
  4. International Trade Centre (ITC). (2021). Accessing global markets for niche agricultural products.
  5. Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO). (2021). Crop diversification strategies for small-scale farmers.
  6. Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF). (2020). Farmer participation in policy-making: Ensuring fair regulations.
  7. Kimani, J., et al. (2020). Regulatory challenges in Muguka farming. East African Agricultural Research Journal, 22(1), 78-91.
  8. Muthoni, G., & Ngugi, E. (2019). Economic impact of Muguka farming in Mbeere. Journal of Agricultural Economics, 15(3), 45-58.
  9. Nyongesa, A. W., Sanga, G., & Mwachofi, N. (2014). The social and economic impact of khat (Catha edulis) on the communities in Mbeere and Meru districts in Kenya. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 55(2), 176-187.
  10. Odenwald, M., Neuner, F., Schauer, M., Elbert, T., Catani, C., Lingenfelder, B., & Rockstroh, B. (2011). Khat use as risk factor for psychotic disorders: a cross-sectional and case-control study in Somalia. BMC Medicine, 3(1), 5.
  11. The Crops Act (2013). Laws of Kenya. Available at:

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