The Qat; means for work and richnessBut a water exhausting agricultural phenomenon [Archives:2003/651/Business & Economy]

July 17 2003

By Yemen Times Staff
Chairman of the Yemeni society fighting the Qat Ahmed Jaber Afif described the spread of the phenomenon of chewing qat, the non-nutritive plant, among the boy and girl students and the juveniles as something horrific. Those students gathering in sessions for chewing qat are urged by and were victims of the illusive thinking and justification that it helps them in concentration while studying especially during preparation for school examinations seasons. They are really under the spell of psychological illusion and power of habit and imitation.
Mr Afif says the qat is no longer just a habit in the Yemeni society but rather a serious epidemic and very few families are immune against it. What is more horrific is that it has been communicated from the father and the mother and the elder brother to school students. But Mr Afif expresses his hope that the educational and awareness campaigns implemented by his society among the youth would result in future positive outcomes.
The society continues its campaigns after it has finished the first phase of the third national program for enlightenment against the heavy damage of qat by targeting more than 35 thousand students from both sexes.
Coordinator of the campaign Balqis al-Lahabi says the society has implemented the first phase of the program in 24 schools inside the capital secretariat with participation of 22 volunteers in this field. The campaign advised the students of damage caused to environment because f planting qat in addition to its damage to food security, health and family problems.
A recent study obtained by the Yemen Times has warned against aggravation of the problem of food security in Yemen and considered qat one of its major reasons because growing qat controls more than 60% of most fertile arable land area and exhausts a high proportion of irrigation waters, trained labour and road networks. The study has emphasized that by the end of 2003 the number of persons exposed to the lack of enough food would amount to 5 million people and because of expansion in growing qat the number would top 8 million people by the year 2025.
Another study conducted by the World Bank says the quantity of water consumed in Sana'a is 30 million cubic meters a year, whereas 60 million cubic meters of water is consumed in growing qat in Sana'a basin. Statistics indicate that 90% of Yemeni men are of the habit of chewing qat everyday while the average among women ranges between 10-60%. The average of chewing qat among men and women increases in the urban areas more than the rural areas because of the more available leisure in the cities.
A study on the relationship between the phenomenon of chewing qat and health clarified that chewing this plant causes pyorrhea, improper position of teeth and deformity of tooth curve, appearance of white spots in the mouth and ulceration in its tissues, in addition to insomnia, inappetence, and constipation. However, the study points out that qat is of advantage in healing some diseases such as diabetes, asthma, stomach and intestines disorders and a cure for coughing and malaria. The one who chews qat feels strength and activity and concentration in mental works and protects the Yemeni society from drug addiction.
Farmer Adham al-Nahamy says the annual proceeds of one hectare planted with qat amounts to one thousand dollars which much better than the revenue of a hectare planted with wheat which does not exceed 150 dollars a year. And this encourages farmers to expand in growing the qat. A qat dealer at al-Hasaba market for qat Hassan al-Matari says there are forty kinds of qat trees. Some of them are of high quality and others are low in quality in that of containing the substance causing exultation.
Statements of agricultural statistics explain that since the year 1970 till 1998 the area of land grown with qat has increased from 800 hectares to 102924 hectares at an increase average exceeding 1187%. This expansion in planting qat has been at the expense of growing fruits, vegetables and coffee. Qat growing occupies around 2% of the total cultivated area of the land while qat's consumption of water is estimated at 820 million cubic meters a year that is at an average of 8500 cubic meter for a hectare as a general average. Revenues gained from qat sale are estimated at YR 400 billion a year. Tens of thousands of manpower works at its farms and markets. A qat seller Farhan Abda Sabri says if it was not for this tree (qat) the majority of the Yemeni people would have been without work and a great famine would have happened in the country.