Chewing Qat Blamed for Yemen's Poverty

الكاتب : Hadhramaut   المشاهدات : 1,252   الردود : 2    ‏2005-12-02
      مشاركة رقم : 1    ‏2005-12-02
  1. Hadhramaut

    Hadhramaut عضو

    التسجيل :
    الإعجاب :
    Chewing Qat Blamed for Yemen's Poverty

    By PAUL GARWOOD, Associated Press Writer
    Wed Nov 30, 4:34 AM ET

    SAN'A, Yemen - The writer winked conspiratorially, shifted the golf ball-sized bulge in his left cheek and tapped his temple gently.

    "Qat is good for the mind. I can't stop writing once I start. But the next morning I read what I wrote and tear it up straight away," chuckled 35-year-old Hatem Bamohriz, nibbling yet another leaf of the mild narcotic.

    To many government and aid officials, qat has ceased to be funny: Yemen's government is making another push to cut the use of the rubbery green leaf with amphetamine-like qualities that is blamed for many of this country's ills, from widespread poverty to growing health problems.

    But there is little progress. Up to 90 percent of Yemeni men are now believed to chew qat daily, and growing numbers of women and children are also chewing, the World Bank says.

    "Qat is a disease, and I hope for the day that they'll take it away," said Samra Shaibani, spokeswoman for the World Bank, a leading anti-qat campaigner. "But if they do, there would be a revolution because the people have little else and rely on it so much."

    Qat is a centuries-old social custom that stimulates mental activity, long conversations and tall tales in this tribal-dominated nation at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Qat chewing is ubiquitous — as common in Yemen as wearing a curved dagger on the belt.

    Historical records show qat in regular use in the 15th century when Sufi Muslims — a deeply mystical sect — chewed the qat leaves during prayer and meditation. As time passed, ordinary Yemenis increasingly took up the practice at special celebrations.

    But now, many experts have come to believe it's at the root of Yemen's 40 percent unemployment rate, its status as the poorest country in the Middle East and its growing national health problems.

    Critics blame qat for everything from the country's low economic productivity to excessive water use to irrigate the qat crop. Some blame it for eating disorders and high cholesterol rates.

    "Qat is the No. 1 socio-economic problem of the country," said Khaled al-Shaq, a communication officer for the United Nations Development Project in Yemen. "It manifests all the frustrations of Yemen."

    Under intense international pressure to improve its ailing economy, Yemen's government released a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper recently that targeted qat, particularly as a waste of precious water.

    In the San'a region alone, nearly three times as much water goes to qat production as is consumed by the population.

    Government leaders from President Ali Abdullah Saleh on down also have announced they have given up the habit, hoping others will follow their example.

    But many complain that Yemeni authorities are not committed to combatting qat because the crop is such a moneymaker for senior officials and influential tribal leaders.

    "Yemenis always avoid talking about it, because behind it is a big group of people running qat businesses and making millions," said Dr. Hashim el-Zain, country director for the U.N.'s World Health Organization.

    So far, there is little progress.

    At about 1 p.m. each afternoon, most Yemeni men stop work, scour crammed street-side markets for the choicest bundles of qat and meet friends in cushion-filled salons or on grubby street corners for their daily chew.

    The plant is grown and used legally in Yemen, where its production is a major source of employment and income — particularly for powerful tribes with vast tracts of land.

    Many farmers tilling the terraced plots, carved into towering mountainsides or on flat, humid coastal plains, grow it instead of food crops.

    Nothing else is in such great demand or can be harvested year round, making it a good cash crop for farmers, said 44-year-old British writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith, who has lived in Yemen since 1982 and chews qat daily.

    What's more, Mackintosh-Smith said, qat cultivation eases the population strain on major cities by keeping farmers in the countryside.

    Beyond that, old habits — despite the hardships they may cause — hang on stubbornly at the languorous tip of the Saudi peninsula.

    "I have been chewing qat since I was 15," said Sheik Abdul Ghani Mahfouz Shamili, a 61-year-old San'a trader. "If I have work, maybe I won't chew. But if I have no work, what else can I do but sleep and chew qat."
  2.   مشاركة رقم : 2    ‏2005-12-02
  3. T_K

    T_K قلم فضي

    التسجيل :
    الإعجاب :
    I really want a Yemeni for once to write about Qat
    and not a tourist or some western writer

    Someone who has lived in Yemen throughout his life
    and chewed Qat himself, so he can talk about all the
    issues involved with Qat; not just the economical effects

    That's all people talk about when speaking of Qat
    its economical effects, and now they're coming up with
    health problems. Yes, sure, Qat causes health problems
    and so does too much meet !1

    Qat keeps Yemenis from developing their country
    but, it also keeps them from harming it, as well
    Considering the poor standards of Yemen, we'd expect
    the youth to be busy robbing people and harrasing women
    but, Qat keeps them from doing that
    A lot of youth in Yemen have rejected drugs like marijuana
    and coce because they have Qat!1

    I'm not saying that Qat is good
    but I'm also saying that Qat has its
    benefits, as well

    Qat does very negative things like
    killing family budgets and building
    agressive atittudes among families

    On the other hand, it keeps our youth
    from the corners of the streets whereby
    giving our women a more ease in roaming around

    Most of all, it keeps Yemen's most ancient traditions and
    cultures, and part of that is community bonding
    where members in the community sit together and
    talk about anything and everything in their lives

    Qat, just like any other asset, cannot be removed
    but can be replaced
    Let's just hope that it's not replaced with something worse!1


  4.   مشاركة رقم : 3    ‏2005-12-02
  5. Hadhramaut

    Hadhramaut عضو

    التسجيل :
    الإعجاب :
    [FRAME="11 70"]

    The Fight against Qat
    is the Fight for the Future

    The other day, I remembered an incident that happened to me in one of my flights to Istanbul from Amman. During the flight, I met with a Turk who did not hear much about Yemen. After introducing myself to him, he said "You are from Yemen? Where people eat grass?" I was so embarrassed at his statement, and expressed my discomfort with the sentence that he just said and replied, "what grass?" He said, "my brother was in Yemen for one week a few years back, and said that Yemenis chew some kind of grass and fill their mouths with it." I told him, "You mean qat? That is no grass, that is a plant" He replied, "I sorry, I do not know good English, yes, I mean plant not grass." I told him that chewing qat is a habit that is adopted among Yemenis through the years. He said that the view of Yemenis while chewing qat is ugly, for he once saw them on TV. "At the beginning, I thought that they had tooth ache, later I discovered that it was qat! I am sorry if that hurts you." Indeed, from inside, I felt the pain, and it was deep. But I still kept my pride, and said, "No, not at all. I know that qat is not a good habit. But our government and people are trying to get rid of it."

    You are saying that Yemeni people are trying to get rid of it, but my brother had chewed it because of the insistence from his Yemeni friends to try it and see how good it is. How would they want not to chew qat while they invite my brother to do the same? That statement hurt me further, for I tried to fake the reality. Indeed, most Yemenis still insist on living with qat and inviting others to it.
    In my last years in Turkey, I watched a program on TV reporting about Yemen and Yemenis. The program showed ugly pictures of skinny Yemenis chewing qat in the streets with dirty cloths and unshaved beards. When imaging myself in the place of a Turkish viewer, I disrespect myself. How can he live with no clean clothes, with nothing to eat, with his family starving, and he is on the street lying on the sidewalk with 'grass' filling his mouth. That truly gave me the impression that we are indeed chewing grass like goats and sheep, forgetting about our responsibilities and families.
    What is also so sad is that many diplomats and tourists who come to Yemen are invited to join qat sessions and chew qat with others. They think that this social activity that is unique to Yemen and that should be preserved. They feel that qat is an element which enables families and friends to meet in gatherings and to strengthen the social relations between them. However, they forget an important thing, Qat is a factor behind Yemen's backwardness!
    Not only that, qat is also considered as a drug in many countries in the world. Moreover, in Yemen, it is a poison, as the latest statistics show that it includes dangerous chemicals that are caused by pesticides. This has led to the death of dozens in the last years.
    Diplomats, foreigners, intellectuals, government officials, and all Yemenis should join hands to destroy this habit that is eating our country's wealth away like termites. For the ones who are yet not convinced, here are 9 reasons why qat is considered the truly most important factor behind our backwardness:
    1. The total expenditure on qat by consumers, on a low estimate basis, is about YR 36 billion every year, yielding a daily average of almost YR 100 million.
    2. Land area allocated for qat growing is about 100,000 hectares.
    3. Of the farmers who grow qat today, 90% were growing something else in the 1970s.
    4. The qat sector represents 39% of GDP.
    5. 55% of all the underground water extracted goes to qat fields.
    6. 20 million man-hours are wasted daily on qat consumption.
    7. Qat has serious detrimental effects on physical and psychological health, and on over-all well-being.
    The President has just on time realized the true dangers of this devastating plant. Within this short period after he was elected as president, he has given his orders to ban the chewing of qat for military personnel during work, and for passengers on local airplane flights. He started with himself by announcing that he stopped chewing this plant, and advised all Yemenis to do the same, but to no avail. He has intelligently started some good steps towards getting rid of qat for good. The initial steps may be simple, but they are considered a milestone, which brings the anti-qat strategy on the move. As I congratulate the President for his steps, I wish he would continue them by forbidding chewing of qat in government offices, and in time will at the end be the rescuer of Yemen from this disgusting habit of chewing qat. I believe, as all anti-qat intellectuals who see the facts behind them do, that there would be no future with qat in Yemen. I am truly glad that the president has become one of them.

    Walid Al-Saqqaf
    Chief Editor

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