More than 10,000 khat farmers and dealers in Kabarole District have taken it upon themselves to school President Museveni on the joys of khat cultivation. Their mission? To convince him not to put his signature on the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Bill of 2023, recently given a nod by Parliament.
Operating under their umbrella organization, the Kabarole Khat Association, these farmers claim that the bill puts their livelihoods at risk. They argue that the bill was passed hastily without proper consultation with key stakeholders. Additionally, they’re concerned that this legislation could turn them into criminals.
Their solution? Treat khat like coffee and tea because it’s profitable. According to them, a bundle of khat sells for Shs2,000, while a kilogram of green tea leaves only brings in Shs300. It’s a no-brainer, really.
“We believe we still have time, and the President will hear our concerns,” said Mr. Jane Kusiima, a khat farmer from Hakibaale Sub-county. “The bill was hastily passed without prior consultations, and as khat farmers, we are deeply dissatisfied with this situation. We are left wondering where we can turn to,” added Ms. Jane Kusiima, another khat farmer from Hakibaale Sub-county.
Not stopping there, the farmers want the government to see khat’s potential for value addition. They’re even suggesting the establishment of a factory for this crop in the district. After all, the government is planning to create an agro-industrial park in Tooro Sub-region. Who wouldn’t want a khat factory next door?
Mr. Johnson Tinkamanyire, the chairperson of the Kabarole Khat Farmers Association, believes that the bill is just plain unfair. According to him, it unfairly lumps khat together with more harmful narcotics.
But what’s so special about khat, you ask? Well, these farmers argue that khat offers the ability to harvest daily, providing a consistent source of income unlike other cash crops.
Even the district chairperson, Mr. Richard Rwabuhinga, is sounding the alarm. He warns that if the bill becomes law, it will negatively impact numerous government programs in Tooro Sub-region. Apparently, a lot of people are benefiting from khat farming.
Kabarole RDC Bandeeba, not known for his love of khat, acknowledged the farmers’ complaints and pledged to ensure their petition reaches President Museveni for consideration.
And for those wondering about the bill, it has some pretty stiff penalties. Anyone caught growing and producing khat without a license could face a fine of Shs2.4m. Repeat offenders may even get the chance to experience a five-year prison vacation or a life sentence. What a treat!
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