Grown in the surrounding highland towns, khat is picked at dawn from groves of the tall-growing Catha edulis plant and by midday has found a buyer who that same afternoon will devote three to four hours to its mastication. Khat chewing is a practice that dates back thousands of years in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula where the khat plant is widely cultivated and known by a variety of names, including qaat and jaad in Somalia, and chat in Ethiopia.
The chewing of khat leaves releases chemicals structurally related to amphetamines, which give the chewer a mild high that some say is comparable to drinking strong coffee. There is some debate about where the plant originated, but wherever it came from it has certainly been a part of Yemeni culture for a very long time. Sitting in animated groups, men and, increasingly, women though never men and women together — that being the tradition in this Islamic country talk and laugh while plucking the tender leaves from the branches and tucking them into the cheek, eventually forming a wad that can bulge almost to the size of a tennis ball.
Gunaid also notes that there have been many cases of khat chewers experiencing persistent hallucinations. Khat can also affect sleep, leading to rebound effects such as late awakening, decreased productivity and day-time sleepiness. The effect of khat on the cardiovascular system is rather less dramatic, but increased heart rate and blood pressure are common side-effects, making khat very harmful for hypertensive patients.
Meanwhile, according to a recent study, khat chewing during pregnancy results in lower birth-weights. Khat is also known to be excreted in breast milk, but no studies have been done so far on how this affects nursing babies.
Men chew alone, women chew alone and children are eventually left alone to do as they please with no adult supervision. For her, khat chewing is way of breaking the monotony of the day and of getting together with friends. There is considerable pressure to chew, says Al-Shammi, himself a non-chewer, and not chewing brings with it social exclusion.
He cites other khat-related problems, notably the lengths to which people go to support their habit. Meanwhile some families deprive their children of basic food needs such as meat and fruits to be able to buy khat. While khat takes its toll on Yemeni families, the economy is also affected. Meanwhile the time spent chewing khat four to five hours daily can be considered hours lost to work. Khat also distorts an already fragile economy with farmers ripping out fruit trees and coffee plants to replace them with the more lucrative crop.
President Ali Abdallah Salih has gone on the record on a number of occasions discouraging the use of khat, but so far no presidential decree has been passed banning its use.
Exactly how change should come is the subject of much debate. Few believe that an outright ban would work. For Yasamy change will come through greater public awareness. One of the main challenges in weaning Yemen off khat is finding alternatives to fill the void that would be left, and for this, Yasamy says, Yemen should find its own solutions. For example selling khat to children should be prohibited and its availability to adults should be limited to certain hours of the day. Health Topics.
Year of the Nurse and the Midwife About Us. Skip to main content. Khat chewing in Yemen: turning over a new leaf Khat chewing is on the rise in Yemen, raising concerns about the health and social consequences. Leen Al-Mugahed reports.Medically reviewed by Drugs. Last updated on Oct 22, Khat leaves are chewed mainly for their psychostimulant and euphoric effects. It has traditionally been used to elevate mood and combat fatigue. Khat is also believed to have antiobesity effects due to appetite suppression.
However, there are no well-controlled clinical trials to support any of these uses. A khat preparation was administered at a dose of 0.
Khat chewing interferes with the absorption of amoxicillin and ampicillin. Nicotine and caffeine increase the stimulant effects of khat. Constipation is among the most commonly experienced adverse reaction in khat users.
Why the Herbal Stimulant 'Khat' Was Banned
Other serious adverse reactions include cardiovascular, CNS, endocrine, metabolic, GI, dental, cognitive, psychiatric, and respiratory effects. Khat may cause oral and gastric cancer, cerebral hemorrhage, severe headache, myocardial infarction MIduodenal ulcers, hypertension, low-birth-weight infants, and a variety of other severe effects, including addiction and associated sequelae.
Khat is a natural stimulant native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, with distribution in parts of the Middle East and on the island of Madagascar. It is a tall evergreen shrub 2. Its tender twigs and leaves are harvested almost year-round.
White leaves are more rare and more expensive than red leaves. Freshly harvested khat has traditionally been wrapped in banana leaves to keep it moist during export to neighboring African countries. Patel The khat plant is believed to be native to Ethiopia and to have been introduced to Yemen between the first and sixth centuries.
Mihretu Though khat has been used historically for medicinal purposes, it is most valued as a stimulant. Al'absi Chewing parts of the khat plant is one of the most common forms of drug use and abuse in many East African nations, with use increasing steadily in recent years and becoming a problem of social and medical importance. Al'absiAl-Maweri Khat is still legal in some countries in Africa and Europe but is illegal in others, such as Germany. Al'absiBongard Recent bans were established in the Netherlands in and in the United Kingdom in Bongard Given its social and cultural tradition in African and some Middle East societies Al'absi and because of its euphoric effects, khat chewing often plays a dominant role in celebrations, meetings, marriages, and other social gatherings.
From khat to coffee: revitalising an age-old Yemeni crop
Studies have shown the age at which individuals begin chewing khat is younger than 10 years. Mihretu A special gathering during which people chew khat is known as a "khat session"; in Ethiopia, people who gather for a khat session are called "jema" or "afosha. Al-Maweri Khat has a sweet taste and an astringent action.Banks of cloud tumble down green farming terraces and caress the gingerbread-like houses clinging to the mountainside, and the unique environmental conditions create some of the best coffee in the world.
Yemen has exported coffee since the s: the Red Sea port of Mokha gives chocolatey coffee its name. Although native to Ethiopia, the coffee plant was developed into the form that gives us the modern beverage by Sufi monasteries in Yemen that shared it with traders and pilgrims. Eventually, coffee made its way to Constantinople now IstanbulBaghdad and London, leading to the rise of the coffee house.
I went home and decided to give coffee growing a try. I feel more free here and the work is rewarding. At least half of the water drawn from ever-depleting aquifers for agricultural purposes is used to grow khat, a quick turnaround crop, rather than the corn or millet that the food-insecure country desperately needs.
In Haraz, more and more locals are deciding to clear the terraced farmland of khat and grow coffee instead — a move that could revolutionise Yemeni agriculture. Around 2m khat plants in the area have been cut down and replaced with coffee and corn in the last decade. Coffee growing is still hard work: it takes a few seasons for a crop to reach maturity, so many farmers require financing to get started. Small exporting companies such as Mokha Route, Port of Mokha and Mokha Mountain offer interest-free loans and train farmers in the use of moisture analysers, modern drying beds and organic fertilisers.
The ripe, red coffee cherries are then picked, dried, aged and the beans separated from the husks by hand. The high altitude terrain is prone to drought, so farmers like Alsalool are constantly building and maintaining small dams to channel run-off rain from the top of the mountains. The difficult conditions mean yields are small but the Haraz product is critically acclaimed worldwide for unique and diverse tones of caramel, chocolate, spices and vanilla all the way though to aromas of lemon, guava, forest berries and apple.
The demand is very high, understandably, for our high quality product. It is a very special tradition. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics Yemen. Reuse this content. Most popular.For Imam Yahya, one of Yemen's last kings, qat was a delight that he praised in poems. For his adversary, the revolutionary al-Zubayri, the plant was the " devil in the shape of a tree ". Still today the views on qat greatly diverge.
For some, qat farming is the perpetuum mobile of Yemen's rural economy and qat chewing an age-old social pursuit that has helped to preserve Yemeni identity in a rapidly changing world. For others, qat is the main inhibitor of human and economic development in Yemen and is to blame for poverty and corruption, the depletion of Yemen's water resources and the country's sloppy approach to fighting Islamist terror. While some believe that qat chewing was the very motor of Yemen's "Arab Spring", others hold it responsible for Yemen's muddled revolution with its high blood toll.
In internet blogs even al-Qaedaits affiliates, and sympathizers discuss the pros and cons of the drug, and a number of Yemeni suicide bombers have met their fate with qat -filled cheeks. A final decision of al-Qaeda on what stance to adopt towards the drug has seemingly been postponed.
The Jihadists want to avoid alienating Yemen's population with a premature ban of the popular stimulant before having gained firm control over the country. Al-Qaeda has learned from the mistakes of its Islamist sister organization, the al-Shabab militia in war-torn Somalia. With Yemen's " Youth Revolution ", a decade of half-hearted qat policies and missed opportunities has come to an end - a decade, however, that has succeeded in lifting the veil of silence that was cast over qat in media and politics after President Ali Abdullah Salih came to power in This whitewash had been part of a ruling bargain between the Salih regime and the unruly tribes that had imparted highland Yemen several decades of relative stability and Salih a year rule.
With the forecast depletion of Yemen's oil and gas reserves within the next decade, the economic importance of qat will further increase and will bring about an important shift in the balance of power from the central government towards the qat producing highland tribes. The challenge of addressing the qat problem is thus tremendous for Yemen's policy makers. While the transitional government is hesitant about its future qat course and anxious not to open a "war" on yet another front, Yemen's anti- qat activists have seized the current, favorable climate of change.
Emboldened by Yemen's revolution and the ouster of President Salih they have recently launched a series of campaigns against the drug, dubbed a " revolution on one's self ". Contact the Author. Table of Contents Arabic version Prologue Arabic version. Some press reviews in Yemeni newspapers. Editor's Preface. Links to further Studies by the Author. There are few publications regarding Yemen that omit the phenomenon of qat.
Of the abundance of books and articles dedicated to this drug, not a small number address the question of whether qat is in fact a 'drug'. Even within the European Union, until today this question is discussed controversially: In Germany qat is banned, in Great Britain it is legal, and in the Netherlands a potential ban is debated fervently at present. Is not everything yet known about this substance that shapes the daily life of Yemen and of Yemenis to a greater extent than so many other things?
A closer analysis of the literature on qat shows that we are very well informed about the history, pharmacology, biochemistry, the health effects as well as the social aspects of qat. But a literature review soon reveals that little is thus far known on the economics, not to mention the politics, of qat.
The political dimension of the phenomenon - a pivotal topic - has so far been almost entirely neglected by scientific research: In what way is qat an instrument of power in the political sense?
Peer Gatter presents a remarkable work hereto, based on his intensive knowledge of the subject matter: For many years he lived in Yemen and, at the periphery of his work for the United Nations and the World Bank and as an advisor in various Yemeni ministries and member of international committees, gathered an impressive material on qat - always accompanied by participant observation and numerous field surveys.
He thereby gained deep insights into social, economic and political processes surrounding the qat issue that had so far remained sealed even to the eyes of experts on the region.
Peer Gatter was given access to materials that open entirely new perspectives on the "phenomenon of qat ". The revolutionary movements that have held Yemen in their grip for the past year have lent the study further relevance, as the qat problem plays a central role in this context.
Indeed, it can be said without hesitation: power-plays, corruption, clientelism, and the personalized political system of Yemen become understandable only if the qat factor is appropriately taken into account. In this respect, the work in hand stimulates a deeper understanding of the functioning of Yemeni society. It not only encapsulates previous knowledge on qatbut also embellishes it with a highly important component - the political dimension.Khat is popular in many countries of the Arabian peninsula and the Horn of Africa, but in Yemen it's a full-blown national addiction.
The newcomer to Yemen's ancient capital can't miss the spectacle of almost an entire adult population presenting cheeks bulging with cud, leaving behind green confetti of discarded leaves and branches.
For its many devotees, khat is a social lubricant on a par with coffee or alcohol in the West. Indeed, because chewing the leaf isn't forbidden by Islam, "khat is alcohol for Muslims," says Yahya Amma, the head merchant at the Agriculture Suq, one of the largest khat markets in the city.
But khat's detractors say the leaf is destroying Yemen. Most families spend more money on khat than on food, according to government figures. A khat-addled public is more inclined to complacency about the failings of the government, khat ceremonies reinforce the exclusion of women from power and, as is obvious to anyone finding a government office nearly empty on a weekday morning, khat is keeping the country awake well past its bedtime. Plus, he says, "all the decisions you've made are bad because you've made them while on khat.
The plant thrives in the high hill country outside Sana'a, where nearly every patch of irrigated land is covered in khat. Unlike coffee, which Yemenis claim was first cultivated here, khat is easy to grow and harvest. And khat needs a lot of water, which is scarce in Yemen. A recent explosion of khat cultivation has drawn water levels down to the point where they are no longer being replenished.
The option of pumping desalinated water over long pipelines from coastal plants is too expensive for such a poor country. Yemen is in real danger of becoming the world's first country to run out of water. A separatist insurgency in the south is threatening to break the country apart, while pirates from Somalia are menacing the coast. Al-Qaeda, meanwhile, has long seen the lawless tribal lands in the northern mountains as a potential sanctuary.
The appalling fate of Yemen and Somalia's khat addicts revealed
Quitting khat would double the amount of household water available, says Klingler, but that may only slow the onset of crisis. Despite the danger, Yemen isn't about to go cold turkey anytime soon. Not only are most of the country's leaders landowners deeply involved in khat production, the leaf may be one of the few things still holding Yemen together.
Says Ashraf Al-Eryani, one of GTZ's local program officers, "Khat plays a big role in keeping people calm, and keeping them off the streets. But it's also delaying change.
It's hard to convince people to act now.KhatCatha edulisalso spelled qat or chat, also called miraaslender evergreen tree or shrub of the family Celastraceaenative to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The bitter-tasting leaves and young buds are chewed for the stimulants cathinone and cathine, which produce a mild euphoria. Khat is an important cash crop in YemenSomaliaand Ethiopia and is often cultivated in areas that do not support other agricultural plants.
Although the drug is central to social life in some countries, the plant and cathinone are considered controlled substances in much of Europe, the United Statesand China. Khat is a slow-growing plant that can reach a height of 25 metres 80 feet.
It has finely toothed large oval leaves and small five-petalled white flowers borne in short clusters in the axils of the leaves. Young stems are commonly reddish in colour. The plant is usually propagated from cuttings and tolerates a range of soil conditions.
It can be harvested several times a year. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Khat plant. Written By: Melissa Petruzzello.
See Article History. Alternative Titles: Catha edulis, chat, miraa, qat. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. The latter is an evergreen shrub whose young leaves, which contain an alkaloid, are chewed as a mild stimulant. The production and consumption of khat occupy a prominent position in the culture and economy of Yemen. Increased affluence has allowed a growing…. At least half of all…. It is especially popular in much of the Middle East.
Species of Celastrus and Euonymus in particular are commonly cultivated as ornamental shrubs. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Dayevery day in your inbox!Many Yemenis chew khat as a daily habit, but the drug is linked to decreased productivity, increased traffic fatalities and even a national water shortage.
In Yemen, khat is the national plant and daily habit. Unfortunately, its consequences are extremely negative. Chewing the leaves of the evergreen shrub releases an amphetamine-like stimulant. A high unemployment rate among youth is part of the shaky economy and political instability is aggravated by terrorist elements. Khat seems to affect stress response and is linked to an increase in road accident fatalities.The Tin Trade's Terrible Toll In Indonesia
After filling out questionnaires regarding their health and khat use, subjects are then given some psychological challenges and other tasks that are mentally demanding. On a subsequent visit, subjects perform various cognitive tasks to measure attention, memory and concentration. How people cope with stress or emotionally charged situations may be impacted by stimulants like khat. Chewing khat seems to affect stress response and the ability to perform cognitive tasks, early results of the study show.
The subject matter is important to the mental state, economic productivity, stability and ultimately the future of the Yemeni people. There are also ramifications for thousands of U. This behavioral study, he said, helped the evolution of proposals focusing on both social-behavioral studies and infectious disease studies.
His team forms a network of U. In addition to building research capacity in Yemen and perhaps even leading to growth in the biomedical field, the studies could provide some insight as Americans struggle to fight a still widespread addiction to tobacco products. You may be trying to access this site from a secured browser on the server.
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