U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Scourge of Life or an Economic Lifeline? Public Discourses on Khat (Catha edulis) in Ethiopia

NCJ Number
Substance Use & Misuse Volume: 43 Issue: 6 Dated: 2008 Pages: 784-802
Ezekiel Gebissa
Date Published
19 pages
This article outlines the conflicting positions in the debate on national policy toward the production and consumption of khat (Catha edulis) in Ethiopia.
Since the turn of the 20th century, the consumption of khat, a plant whose leaves or twigs are chewed for its stimulant and euphoric-producing qualities, has spread to all regions of Ethiopia and all social groups, irrespective of religious affiliation, gender, or age. Coupled with its increased use, khat has been transformed from a shrub grown for domestic consumption to the region's predominant cash crop. Khat is a profitable commodity whose trade involves millions of farmers, traders, and other service providers in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Opponents of khat argue that it is a health hazard that has significant adverse socioeconomic consequences, such that a complete ban is warranted in order to protect the country's youth and the country's socioeconomic future. Khat's advocates argue that it has significant economic benefits for the country and region that outweigh any potential adverse consequences for the Ethiopian social fabric and economy. In support of the latter argument, by the 1990s there was an apparent scientific consensus that the use of khat cannot, technically, be described as addictive, and khat is not categorized as an addiction-producing drug. Still, there are significant harmful consequences of the khat industry on rural life in Ethiopia. These include depletion of land resources, the rapid overpumping of stored water, and chewers' diversion of a significant portion of their income to khat. The author urges a public discourse on how to use the prosperity that the khat industry has generated to engender a sustainable economic development. 1 figure, 3 tables, 5 notes, and 55 references


No download available