Photographer's Note

From Kombolcha towards Addis
we were crossing the Wollo region
a flat cultivated area
with muslim people predominance.

A couple of markets along the road
were a nice diversion
of the travelling along the road and
here we verified the use of "qat"
a light drug with stimulating effects.

Khat (Catha edulis, family Celastraceae; Arabic: قات; Somali: Jaad; pronounced [kæt]; Ge'ez č̣āt), also known as qat, qaat, quat, gat, chat, chad, chaad and miraa, is a flowering plant native to tropical East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Khat contains the alkaloid called cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant which causes excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria. In 1980 the World Health Organization classified khat as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence, and the plant has been targeted by anti-drug organizations like the DEA. It is a controlled/illegal substance in many countries.

Believed to have originated in Oromia, Ethiopia, khat is a slow-growing shrub or small tree that grows to between 1.5 metres and 20 metres tall, depending on region and rainfall, with evergreen leaves 5–10 cm long and 1–4 cm broad. The flowers are produced on short axillary cymes 4–8 cm long, each flower small, with five white petals. The fruit is an oblong three-valved capsule containing 1–3 seeds.

The origins of khat are disputed. Some believe that it is Ethiopian in origin, from where it spread to the hillsides of East Africa and Yemen. Others believe that khat originated in Yemen before spreading to Ethiopia and nearby countries. Sir Richard Burton explains that khat was introduced to the Yemen from Ethiopia in the 15th century.

Cultivation and uses
The khat plant is known by a variety of names, such as qat and ghat in Yemen, qaat and jaad in Somalia, chat in Oromia and Ethiopia and miraa in Kenya and Tanzania.

Khat has been grown for use as a stimulant for centuries in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. There, chewing khat predates the use of coffee and is used in a similar social context. Its fresh leaves and tops are chewed or, less frequently, dried and consumed as tea, in order to achieve a state of euphoria and stimulation; it also has anorectic side-effects. Its use is generally not limited by religion, though the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (along with its Eritrean counterpart) has forbidden Christians from using it due to its stimulating effects. Due to the availability of rapid, inexpensive air transportation, the drug has been reported in England, Wales, Rome, Amsterdam, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The public has become more aware of this drug through media reports pertaining to the United Nations mission in Somalia, where khat use is widespread, and its role in the Persian Gulf.

Khat use has traditionally been confined to the regions where khat is grown, because only the fresh leaves have the desired stimulating effects. In recent years improved roads, off-road motor vehicles and air transport have increased the global distribution of this perishable commodity. Traditionally, khat has been used as a socializing drug, and this is still very much the case in Yemen where khat-chewing is predominantly, although not exclusively, a male habit. In other countries, khat is consumed largely by single individuals and at parties. It is mainly a recreational drug in the countries which grow khat, though it may also be used by farmers and laborers for reducing physical fatigue or hunger and by drivers and students for improving attention. Within the counter-culture segments of the Kenyan elite population, Khat (referred to as veve) is used to counter the effects of a hangover or binge drinking, similar to the use of the coca leaf in South America. In Yemen some women have their own saloons for the occasion, and participate in chewing Khat with their husbands on weekends. In many places where grown, Khat has become mainstream enough for many children to start chewing the plant before puberty.

Khat is so popular in Yemen that its cultivation consumes much of the country's agricultural resources. It is estimated that 40% of the country's water supply goes towards irrigating it, with production increasing by about 10% to 15% every year. Water consumption is so high that groundwater levels in the Sanaa basin are being diminished; because of this, government officials have proposed relocating large portions of the population of Sanaa to the coast of the Red Sea.
One reason for cultivating khat in Yemen so widely is the high income it provides for farmers. Some studies done in 2001 estimated that the income from cultivating khat was about 2.5 million Yemeni rials per hectare, while it was only 0.57 million rials per hectare if fruits were cultivated. This is a strong reason for farmers to prefer to cultivate khat over coffee and fruits. For this reason, between 1970 and 2000, the area on which khat was cultivated grew from 8,000 hectares to 103,000 hectares. However, these numbers are estimates and the real numbers may be higher.

from Wikipedia

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Additional Photos by Luca Belis (Mistral) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 519 W: 74 N: 2118] (15416)
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