In the last two decades marijuana growing was only known in some few regions of Tanzania—particularly Mara, Iringa and some of the few regions in the periphery of the country.
Today, the grass, that Jamaican Rastafarians want it to be legalised, has spread almost in every region where, when the law enforcers usher in campaigns to uproot it, the growers flow them behind as they plant more.
The beautiful hilly terrains of Arusha Region are currently a new spot where this notorious business has grown roots as the practitioners are do not only grow and sell, but also sniff the grass.
Method Charles took interest to investigate this growing menace as it spoils the society’s youth and the rest of the fold at Ngaramtoni in Arusha Region after he received sponsorship from Tanzania Media Fund (TMF) towards the end of last year and the results were immense.
His project area resonated around how leaders from in the lower levels (villages) involve themselves in marijuana farming instead of permanently stopping the menace in Arusha region.
The initiatives taken by the grantee involved the visiting of the victims and asking them how they got the grass, its effects to them, locating the marijuana farmers in a move to establish how it is planted and sold.
On these set of questions, he found out that some of the leaders were the king pins in the illicit trade.
It was then that he talked to the leaders themselves, among them being the Director of Arusha Municipal Council, Paul Kessy who said that they were looking for an alternative crop so as to abolish marijuana cultivation completely.
The Arusha Regional Police Commander Charles Mkumbo and required data of the number of affected citizens and rates to which marijuana plantation has spread out, then the reporter aired the programme both as hard news and magazine as follow:
The programme concerning the project was aired out in HABARI MAALUMU radio station that airs its broadcasts in six regions namely Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Manyara, Dodoma, Singida and some parts of Tanga.
Also through the newspapers he ran a special column in which the readers and listeners took part and were actually the ones who triggered the leaders to act against the marijuana sellers.
One of the major impacts is that the District Commissioner made an inspection of the bang growing farms at Ngaramtoni area.
Some of the leaders were implicated in involving themselves in marijuana plantation business without informing the respective authorities.
However, marijuana selling is not as easy as it used to be. The government therefore had to train the extension officers on how to give education to local farmers and people on how to replace marijuana growing with other profitable crops such as pyrethrum.
The leaders in the areas that were discovered to be growing bang were arrested by the District Commissioner as a result.
This is what the Tanzania Media Fund (TMF) verifier found out from Ngailo and Ibrahim, who are some of the bang growers and users and other interviewees that the grantee had talked to during his project execution.
According to James Merusoli, the ten cell leader for Nagamtoni, the situation before the District Commissioner intervened through various sorts of measures was bad as it was affecting all sorts of beings, especially the youth. However, at the moment, there is strict leadership which has changed the state of things, he says.
He says, the impact is that marijuana cultivation and use have to a certain extent gone down though the grass is still being sold in Arusha City and some of its suburbs. However, due to security related issues, some members both leaders and local citizens refused to be recorded or taken photos.
The herculean task then has been how to convince the farmers and the general populace to shift from bang growing and use to other businesses.
For his part, Joseph ole-Lenoi, chairman of Lemanyata village says the changed scenario to a certain extent was attributed by the publishing of the story.
“At first, the cultivation and use of the grass was very common, but now, the practice has been greatly reduced due to the operation that was conducted by government officials.
The situation was so notorious such that one would think it was a legal business in the past years. At the moment, however, education has been provided, the villagers are now cooperating with the security organs to curb the illegal business,” he says.
Now when it comes to marijuana planting, what was done to it? On December 28 last year, a meeting was conducted which resolved that by January this year, the leaders will go to all the areas to ensure that no marijuana plantation are seen in the areas when the rains begin to fall.
Another question which arose at the meeting was that since the weed stays for a long time, how it we eradicated within the specified time?
It was resolved that since every area in the region has an owner or dweller, so it was upon every stakeholder to stay responsible o else will be held liable based on where they stay or live.
The initiatives therefore taken against the involved village if marijuana is found in the area, is that, before punishing the dwellers, the ten cell or hamlet leader should be punished first or held liable for not providing the right information on why marijuana is planted in their area of residence.
Now what challenges did the leaders face in eradicating weed plantation which have very great popularity?
On this, Joel Meru, a resident in the area, says that at times the leaders, especially the chairman was seen as if he was revenging to some bang distributors for casting a ballot against him during the elections.
Another pertinent question is what is the status of the leaders involved? On this the chriman says many leaders still remain at large. However, there is a ten cell leader who was nabbed and fined a tithe fee of 10,000/- because a resident in his area owned a marijuana farm.
The point is while the political and administrative leadership is still looking for an alternative to bang growing, the situation might relapse back to what it was in the past. What the leadership should do is to take serious and quick measures to arrest the situation.