Yemen is already suffering from conflict. Now, in the chaos, khat farming is growing – redirecting resources from much-needed food production.
The cultivation of khat in Yemen has expanded during the ongoing crisis, with the plant now taking up about 15 per cent of agricultural land, according to figures released by the Yemeni Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. It was previously grown only on mountains and hills.
The ministry’s statistics also confirm a large increase in khat trade within the country, as Yemenis’ annual spending on the addictive drug has reached about US$12 billion.
There are many confirmed health hazards of chewing the stalk and tender leaves of khat, in addition to the negative psychological, social, cultural and economic aspects of addiction.
The spread of khat cultivation is affecting food security in the country, at a time when Yemen is standing on the brink of famine, whose signs have already appeared in a number of provinces.
The recent figures released by the ministry indicate that khat has become the real crisis, increasing the severity of the worsening political and economic crises and “making about 82 per cent of the population in need of urgent aid,” according to Mustafa Nasr, the head of the Studies and Economic Media Center in Yemen.