News / Africa

    Chewing Khat Increasingly Popular Among Ethiopians

    Chewing Khat Increasingly Popular Among Ethiopiansi
    X
    April 30, 2013 12:39 PM
    The cultural tradition of chewing khat, a leaf that is a mild narcotic, is on the rise in Ethiopia. The East African nation is one of the world's chief exporters of the crop, earning hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Marthe van der Wolf reports from Addis Ababa.
    Marthe van der Wolf
    The cultural tradition of chewing khat, a leaf that is a mild narcotic, is on the rise in Ethiopia.  The East African nation is one of the world's chief exporters of the crop, earning hundreds of millions of dollars a year. 

    Khat's popularity is growing as more members of the middle and upper classes are chewing the leaf.  The natural stimulant is considered to be mildly addictive and the leaf has become the country's number-two export behind coffee.
     
    But in Ethiopia itself, the government has banned khat houses.  That means men now gather in private homes to chew and discuss daily life, politics and sports.
     
    “I started chewing about seven or eight years go," one man explained.  "It gives me energy to do more work.  When I’m chewing I feel happy and I’m more effective.”
     
    “I started chewing about a month ago," another man said. "I wish I started chewing before because it gives me pleasure and more energy to do work.  You just have to be careful not to become addicted.”
     
    Khat not only boosts energy but boosts Ethiopia’s economy. Although official numbers are not available, thousands farmers are believed to be growing khat. The plant can be harvested up to four times a year, and with millions of people using it in East Africa, Yemen and in the diaspora, it is more profitable than other crops.
     
    The sector not only provides employment in rural areas, it also creates jobs in the cities.  Now, there is a new phenomenon in capital city Addis Ababa: khat home delivery boys on scooters.
     
    “There are some people who don’t want to be seen at a khat shop by other people so we deliver for those people," a delivery boy explained. "There are also other people, they want to sit in their house, they just want to relax.”
     
    As the demand for the leaf in Ethiopia has increased, so has the price.

    “Khat was very cheap 10 years ago compared to today.  The highest price then was 20 or 25 birr.  But today, half a bundle of khat is 60 birr and a full bundle of khat is 120 birr,” a khat chewer complained.
     
    Studies show that health consequences of chewing khat are limited. Dawit Wondimagegn is dean is the Addis Ababa University Medical School. He questioned whether a growing number of users is desirable.
     
    “The question we need to ask is whether khat chewing results in a lack of productivity or lack of opportunity [and] predisposes young people to chew more khat," he remarked. "In places like ours, where there is no meaningful employment, people get bored and they could go and start chewing khat to spend their time.  We have to analyze this question very carefully.”   
     
    While students and professionals use khat in hopes of improving their school results or work performance, some towns in the country empty out in the afternoon after people start chewing. So while khat production is flourishing, it is not yet clear if more users will create less productive Ethiopians..

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora