Somalia’s khat ban has angered growers of the crop as well as traders and consumers.
There’s been a lull in the khat business since Somalia’s government announced a surprise import ban this week.
Hassan Ganey a consumer of the stimulant says he knows, “that khat hurts the economy, so I agree with the government to stop khat imports , but they can not stop them completely, they should do it gradually. “
Adam Sharif is already experiencing withdrawal symptoms. “Since this morning I have not been able to get up and go to work. In fact I can’t work without khat because it gives me the strength to work longer”, he says.
The red-stemmed, green-leafed plant is a stimulant which works in a similar manner as a couple of cups of espresso.
Chewing khat is an afternoon activity among Somali men but it is increasingly being abused with addicts commonly spending all their money on bunches of leaves and wasting hours in a stupor.
Khat is banned in the US, Canada and most of Europe – all places with large diaspora Somali communities.
But no government or authority has ever succeeded in banning it in Somalia.
While it is enjoyed in Somalia, khat is grown in neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, both of which have large farming communities relying on its export for their livelihoods.
No explanation has been offered by the Somali government for the ban something which has angered dealers even more.
“I’ve been selling khat for a long time. I use the income to pay my kids fees”, says Halima Dahir, an importer.
Abdi Hassan Diriye is a vendor in the market of Meru “We’ve not had Khat today and did not have it yesterday. Before yeasterday, once we are supplied I manage to give money to my family for their food for the day but I have not given anything to my family since yesterday. I call on the Somali government, the Minister of Aviation, the president of Somalia, Prime Minister and everyone who is concerned to create jobs or to lift the ban on khat.”
The decision has also upset Kenyan growers who have watched their crops, which must be transported fresh before the leaves wilt , languish in sacks.
Tonnes of the plant are going to waste while the supply chain has ground to a halt but dealers hope things will be back to normal in a few days.