Posted by BERNARD MOMANYI on July 26, 2011
NAIROBI, Kenya Jul 26 â€“ A man found farming opium poppy on an acre of land in Njambini, Kinangop was arrested on Tuesday and the plant uprooted.
The plant was uprooted by police from the Anti-Narcotics Unit headquarters in Nairobi who raided the farm on the banks of River Sasumua, some 91 kilometres from the Capital, Nairobi.
“We acted on a tip off and went to the home where we have recovered Opium Poppy,” Head of the Anti narcotics Unit Mr Sebastian Ndaru who led the security operation said.
“We have the owner of the farm in our custody and he is assisting us with the investigation. We want to establish how long he has been doing this illegal farming business and how it all started,” he added.
Four sacks of the plant were uprooted from the farm during the security operation that lasted more than eight hours.
Opium poppy is the species of plant from which opium and poppy seeds are extracted.
It is a source of several opiates including morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, and noscapine used to manufacture Heroine.
Other than manufacturing Heroine, the plant is also valuable for ornamental purposes.
It is widely grown as an ornamental flower throughout Europe, North America, South America, and Asia. It is a rare plant in Kenya.
The farmer in his thirties who identified himself as David Kamau told Capital News he had been farming the plant since mid last year but claimed he did not know what it was.
“I have always known it is just a flower for export. I didn’t know it is an illegal drug,” Mr Kamau said in an interview at the Njambini police station where he was briefly interrogated by detectives before he was driven to the CID headquarters in Nairobi under tight security.
He claimed he had been selling it to a dealer who allegedly told him he usually exports it to Holland and other unnamed European countries.
“I don’t sell it locally, I have a dealer who usually comes for it. He exports it to Holland and several other countries. He knows better, mine is just to look after the plant,” he claimed, often staring at a green pick up which was carrying the opium poppy plant that was uprooted from his farm.
Police could not estimate the value of the plant once harvested neither did the farmer who only revealed a seed could fetch him 30 Euros.
“It is a source of my livelihood, once the plant matures, I was expecting good money but now I don’t know what to say. My business has been spoiled but I am innocent because I did not know if it is illegal to plant it,” the farmer said.
He said the last time he sold the seeds was in November last year.
Police were Tuesday evening waiting for results from the Government chemist as part of the requirements of such an investigation before the farmer is arraigned in court on drug trafficking-related charges.
“We have submitted the samples to the Government Chemist and we hope to get the results any time now, but we have no doubt this is Opium Poppy,” Mr Ndaru, the head of the anti-narcotics unit said.
Police believe there are more farmers in the area farming opium poppy and have hinted they would carry out further investigations.
“We are not convinced he [the farmer] is alone. It appears it is a business that is flourishing here,” Mr Ndaru said of Kinangop and its surrounding areas.