“Our Khat is of better quality and cheaper than the one exorbitantly imported from Ethiopia but lack of markets is slowly forcing us to destroy our plants” Farmer Siad
By: Yusuf M Hasan
GABILE (Somalilandsun) – Hundreds of locally produced Khat goes to waste while consumers in the country scrambled for the herbal leaves imported from Ethiopia and Kenya.
According to Mr. Mohamed Siad a Khat farmer in Gabile, a number of his colleagues have stopped tending their Khat plants due to lack of markets despite the high consumption of the commodity in the country.
“Our Khat is of better quality and cheaper than the one exorbitantly imported from Ethiopia but lack of markets is slowly forcing us to destroy our plants” said the farmer while adding that the non-consumption of the locally produced herbal plant is a malady that him and his colleagues have failed to fathom.
The planting of Khat in Gabile region and Erigavo district in Sanaag region restarted earnestly after a in 1992 after a hiatus of seven years which was occasioned by the banning of Khat consumption and subsequent nationwide (Somalia republic) uprooting of the plant in 1984 by the then strongman and dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
Khat is fresh young leaves of the Catha edulis shrub plant that is cultivated primarily in East Africa and Yemen and is traditionally used by members of the Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities wherever they are in the world.
In Somaliland where the plant is sold everywhere and consumption appears to be growing on almost a daily basis, supplies are mainly imported from neighbouring Ethiopia at a cost over $600,000 on a daily basis.
Chewers of the stimulant herb recently banned by the UK Government are usually to be found in the many special Khat cafes run by women and in private homes where the chewers are to be observed in extreme comfort with flasks of tea (black and white), assorted soft drinks-Soda, bottled water etc. surrounding them.
While fortunes are made or lost by the importers cum distributors, sellers and consumers on almost a daily basis the fixation with the plant imported from Ethiopia-Daily and biweekly from Kenya is a malady that is yet to be fathomed considering that almost every consumers concur with Farmer Siad that the locally produced plant is of better quality and cheaper price than the imported one.
“Although our locally produced Khat is of high quality and cheaper I still prefer the one imported from Ethiopia” confessed Hasan Eidle a Hargeisa based Khat seller and consumer
Queried on why he never stocks the locally produced Khat at his stall Mr. Eidle said it was due to business prudence since none of his clients will purchase it or even consume if offered without any charges.
Without attempting to unravel the malaise of consumers preferring the important Khat plant it is suffice to say that the local farmers are slowly losing their source of income thus joining the growing numbers of the unemployed thus aggravating the massive rural to urban migration in search of alternate sources of livelihoods.
farmer Mohamed Siad who informed that he is gradually shifting to other crops like water melons, vegetables and sorghum while trying to maintain half his Khat plantations in hopes of changes for the better urged colleagues who are suffering in the big towns like Hargeisa to return to and adapt other crops.
Said he, “I personally know a few ex-framers who are currently in camps for Internal Displaced persons-IDPs in Hargeisa where they went in search of elusive jobs”
The herbal stimulant drug with effects similar to amphetamine whose chewing makes people feel more alert, talkative, and suppresses appetite is describe by users as having an ensuing calming effect when used over a few hours.
According to the British medical board and other researchers regular use may lead to insomnia (inability to sleep), anorexia and anxiety, irritability, anger and possibly violence as per Psychological dependence – users feel depressed and low unless they keep taking it thus ultimate addiction associated with high numbers of schizophrenic persons abounding every in the country, loss of income due to inability to keep hours as well the high rate of divorces leading to an increasing in single mothers turned family bread-winners.
Despite all these side effects known by all, the government continues to accrue a big chunk of its annual revenue from taxing the plant as citizens compete in spending hundreds of thousands of much needed dollars in pursuit of temporary and costly highs while farmers like Mohamed Siad and others in Gabile and Erigavo continue to join the ranks of the poor.
If the government is accruing lots of revenue from the Ethiopian plant why not put in place local producer protection policies that will facilitate the increase in amount charged in tax thus which is beneficial in the fact that it shall help maintain farmers like Siad in their farmers while creating jobs as well as retaining a large portion of the dollars going to Ethiopia on a daily basis.