Khat chewing was confined to a very limited section of Ethiopian society. But now a significantly growing number of men and women of all ages and walks of life chew khat, an independent researcher says.

By Seleshi Tessema |

Addis Ababa―A high-spirited trader who goes by the name Chere Adugna chews an edible green leaf in his cheeks and stand sweating below a midday sun in the lakeside city of Hawassa, some 270 kilometers south of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Hawassa is the country’s trading hub for the legal, popular herbal stimulant known as khat (also known as qat).

Chere chewed over Anadolu Agency’s question and murmured to himself. He took a wheezy breeze, gazing at the customers queued in front of his khat shop. “For how long do I, we Ethiopians grow, buy, sell, chew, and get high on this God-given khat? For sure till the end of the world,” he said.

Chere’s lips were trembling and he threw a spent cigarette that was between his fingers.

“The chattering classes talk of banning it, but no one can take it away from us; it is our culture, our life,” he said, spluttering and howling with rage.

A short, nervous customer with a small brown mustache and small sharp eyes shouted at the trader. “Forget your philosophy, sell us our khat, we don’t have time.”

A national addiction

It was one o’clock in the afternoon, “high time” for those who chew khat.

Khat, a mild stimulant, has been banned in many European and North American countries.

However, the herbal high has been legally cultivated, traded, and chewed in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Yemen for centuries. Khat arrives in capital Addis Ababa every day at dawn. There are 15 types of khat supplied to the city’s markets.

Daniel Megersa, an independent researcher, told Anadolu Agency that in Ethiopia khat is “a kind of national cultural addiction and a multimillion dollar business”.

“Khat chewing was confined to a very limited section of Ethiopian society,” Megersa said. “But now a significantly growing number of men and women of all ages and walks of life chew khat.”

Continue reading this story on Anadolu Agency
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