Police to heighten crackdown on bhang growers, traders

20Apr 2016
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Police to heighten crackdown on bhang growers, traders

POLICE in Arusha plan to step up their crackdown on marijuana farming and trade in Arusha.

Arusha Regional Police Commander Charles Mkumbo

The operation come at a time when a UN report lists Tanzania as the second-largest marijuana producer in Africa after South Africa.

Arusha Regional Police Commander Charles Mkumbo said on Friday that the operation would target marijuana and khat farmers and the entire trade syndicate.

Arusha is one of the key regions for marijuana farming as most of the illicit drug is produced on the slopes of Mount Meru, the second tallest mountain in Tanzania after Kilimanjaro.

“We are aware that Arusha is the leading region in producing marijuana, which is produced in the rough terrain on the slopes of Mount Meru...in this operation, we’re collaborating with the anti-illicit drug unit and other security agencies,” the regional police chief said.

He cited some of the notorious areas for marijuana farming as Kisimiri and Mwandeti villages in Arumeru District, which is inhabited by the Maasai and Meru ethnic groups. “These are very notorious areas for bhang farming,” he said.

Records show that the area has been leading in marijuana farming for more than 15 years is as it is the mainstay of the economy for some remote villages north-west of Arusha.

Mkumbo added that police were having a hard time controlling farming of the narcotic crop because most of the farms were located in mountainous areas, which were very difficult to reach.

Salum Swalehe, one of Arusha City residents, told The Guardian that farmers and dealers of marijuana have been changing tactics every day to remain elusive to law enforcers.

“This makes it difficult to end the illegal business,” he said, revealing that August, every year, is the main harvest season for marijuana, which offers farmers good cash compared to any other farming ventures.

Reports from the area have it that farmers engage in brisk transactions with dealers who smuggle the drug out of the villages.

Tens of marijuana bales are transported down Mount Meru by foot or loaded on donkeys and motorcycles using a route that straddles a canyon and is deposited at a secret location near Oldonyo Sambu Village.

Women are increasingly getting involved in transporting bales of marijuana while men scout the routes to make sure they do not encounter law enforcers.

It is said that marijuana consignments are taken to as far as Namanga border post, Arusha City, Mererani mining site and Dar es Salaam.

Some of it is destined for the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, which serves as the distribution point for Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan.

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