Khat: the little green leaf is draining Yemen youth, economy, and its waters

Sana’a, the largest city of Yemen is facing an intense use of Khat. Khat, small green leafs, are great in demand across Yemen. According to a study, about 1.7 million residents of the major city intake Khat, which means that almost entire population of the city uses Khat.

Khat is a chewable leaf that comes in bundles of wads. It is somewhat like tobacco and is chewable. Those who chew it, chew it for hours!  Sanaa’s half of the population lives below the poverty line, yet almost entire population intakes Khat!

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The people have made Khat a traditional food item. If you go to Yemen, you will hardly see a ceremony that would not offer Khat. It is served at wedding ceremonies, at special occasions, and at get-togethers!  The Yemeni’s would traditionally wake up in under an influence of Khat.

They feel that they are on top of the world, their joy is beyond measures! A Yemeni cannot imagine a day without Khat. As Islamic law prevails there, alcohol is banned yet Khat serves as a great substitute! Khat is a stimulus that would suppress one’s emotions, make his talkative and would give a confidence boost.

It is quite a safe drug whose known harms are staining the teeth and loss of appetite. The Khat is proclaimed as a safe drug. It is a harmless drug that is used by the youngsters of Yemen. The youngsters proclaim that chewing Khat while studying makes them alert and helps concentrate on their work. 

But is it really safe to chew Khat? Are Yemenis benefiting from the excess intake of Khat? Well, it is not as harmless as it sounds to be. It is proving as a dangerous drug to Yemenis. A drug that is depleting their water reserves, that is shrinking their economy and that is making them dependent on others!

Yes, the small green chewable leaves are not good for the economic health of the country! The World Health Organization (WHO) came up with shocking research. It revealed that 90% of the male population of Yemen intakes Khat. Whereas 50% of females of Yemen and up to 20% of children (who are less than 12 years of age), intake Khat.

This is shocking! Not only they intake Khat, but as a social tradition, they would chew it for hours! As the drug is high in demand, the farmers have replaced food cultivation with Khat. This is not good for the economy. When farmers replace food cultivation with Khat, this causes food shortage in Yemen.

And this is exactly what Yemen is facing. It was once a self-sufficient food country. It used to produce 95% of the food that it required itself. However, due to rising Khat trend, it now has to import 92% of their food to meet their food requirements!

Khat demand is so high that on average a Yemeni family would dedicate their half of earnings on Khat. Khat cultivation requires water. The green leave is depleting country’s water resources rapidly. About 27-30% of the groundwater of the country is sucked by the Khat.

If the same rate of Khat cultivation continues, Sanaa might become the world’s first ever capital to run out of water completely.

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