Its downhill all the way
June 9, 2012 5:35 AM   Subscribe

The need for speed This article contrasts two very different timeframes in the 'social life' of the plant stimulant miraa--known elsewhere as khat--in Kenya and beyond. One, the heritage and cultural associations around the age of the trees themselves and the other, the impact of the perishability of the product even as demand for it grows on continents halfway around the world, thus the "need for speed". (Previously) (Previously)
posted by infini (6 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Eating the Flowers of Paradise is a rather interesting book about the khat trade. The author gives up his job in England to hang out in Ethiopia and Yemen and get gently baked on khat for a while. It covers the extreme speed needed in the distribution, up to the point of finding some slightly wilted but serviceable leaves in a cornershop in London.
posted by scruss at 8:07 AM on June 9, 2012

If anything, its commercial success may reinforce yet more its cultural value: it is a 'traditional' Meru crop successful in the 'modern' world. It seems certain that miraa consumers around the world will continue to demand speedily delivered twigs, while mbaine trees continue to represent the longue duree of Meru heritage: trees that have stood the test of time, and provide proof that, in some contexts at least, haraka haraka haina baraka.
posted by clavdivs at 8:10 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best. Scrabble word. EVAR.
posted by John of Michigan at 6:35 PM on June 9, 2012

(When spelled as "qat," of course.)
posted by John of Michigan at 6:35 PM on June 9, 2012

fed ex could have something here.
posted by clavdivs at 2:13 PM on June 10, 2012

fed ex could have something here.

Maybe, maybe not. As far as I know there isn't any airstrip at all, let alone a commercial one, in Meru town, the largest city centre near where the miraa production is largely centered. There is, however, a delightful national park, which I recently went camping at.

On a drive of about 335 KM from the park gates to central Nairobi, we decided to count the 265 speed-bumps we encountered. They Kenyan government set them up because of all the regular traffic accident deaths that speeding miraa pickup trucks are causing, mowing pedestrians down in their haste. Unfortunately, it didn't slow the trucks down, it only caused them to hit these bumps at about 100-120kph, which in turn has made the areas where the speed-bumps are (largely in small town centres) effectively death-zones.

Figuring out the first link in the Supply Chain between Meru and Nairobi is going to be a big hurdle to overcome before you could ascertain any real shipping business opportunity here.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:12 AM on June 12, 2012

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