- His plot of land lies not far from Mount Kenya, off a red dirt road and a short walk past the goat that bleats like an old man clearing his throat. Mithika moves cautiously to avoid tromping on the beans his mother insisted on planting and then shows us his prized two-acre field of moss-covered and gnarly trees, some more than 100 years old....“The best miraa in the world,” Mithika proclaims.
Miraa trees and bushes, more commonly known as khat, produce the tender leaves and branches that are widely consumed throughout Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, parts of Kenya and Yemen, where afternoon chewing sessions are ingrained in the culture, as ubiquitous as coffee and as common a social ritual as a beer after work, the seeking of a mild buzz. Mithika’s plantation is in central Kenya, amid the Nyambene Hills, not far from the town of Maua, where khat trees thrive in the high altitude and volcanic soil that farmers say cannot be reproduced. This area grows, just as Mithika boasts, the world’s most-coveted khat. The economy and people of the towns and villages here in Meru County depend on the khat trade — a 24/7 business in which everyone plays a role. “If someone tells you they’re not involved with miraa, they’re lying,” Mithika says.