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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid