Khat use in Yemen

Khat use in Yemen

 

Khat was introduced in Yemen from Ethiopia in the 15th century. It is used in the country as a socializing drug and chewing Khat is part of the Yemeni business culture to promote decision making. Cultivation of Khat consumes much of the country’s agricultural resources and 40% of the country’s water supply goes towards irrigating it. Its production increases by about 10% to 15% every year. Between 1970 and 2000 the area in which Khat was cultivated grew from 8000 hectares to 103,000 hectares. One of the reasons why Khat is cultivated in Yemeni is because it provides high income for the farmers. In 2001 the income generated from Khat was about 2.5 million yemens rials per hectare. 80% of males and 45% of females in Yemen are Khat users who chew the drug daily for long periods of their lives.

 

It is hard to control Khat in the country because there isn’t any worldwide regulation of the drug. WHO has stated that the abuse of this substance is a regional problem and may best be controlled at that level. It is further not scheduled under the Single Convention on Narcotic drugs making it much harder for the government to control. Furthermore the border of the country is easy to cross therefore it is simple to export drugs out of the country and thus increase the market. The government has a limited capacity and resources to enforce laws and also lacks a harmonised approach to the issue of Khat. It would not be supported by the people if it decides to regulate the drug and one of the people interviewed in Yemen stated that regulating Khat in the country could cause a revolution because it is viewed as such a basic part of the society. Furthermore the fact that chewing Khat is a cultural thing in the society and also an economic value makes it harder for the government to regulate the drug. Khat is seen as a vital source of social order by the government therefore not much effort has been made to regulate it.

 

Banning the drug completely in the country will be next to impossible but some measures could be used to decrease its use such as increasing public awareness on the negative effects of the drug through campaigns. Furthermore by educating vulnerable groups and setting limits on the use of the drug to certain hours of the day could help reduce the use of drug in the society. Khat could further be regulated by imposing tariffs and taxes on the substance when it is being exported.