Khat in Yemen: A 12-month Outlook


    The breakdown of the truce in the ongoing civil war in Yemen will cause the production of Khat to increase. The worsening effects of climate change in the region will also result in more people questioning the role of Khat. Khat is a plant which when chewed creates a sense of euphoria and is primarily grown/consumed in east Africa and the middle east. (Source) It forms a large part of cultural interactions in Yemen where its use is the most prolific. Consequently, it is associated with the worsening drought the nation suffers because of its water intensive growing requirements. 

    KJ-1: It is likely the current drought in Yemen will be exacerbated by the growth of Khat because of its water intensive needs in the next 6 months.

    • Yemen has a severe water scarcity problem. (Source)
    • Yemen’s per capita availability of water is 2 percent of the global average. (Source)
    • A “daily” bag of Khat is estimated to take 500 litres of water to grow. (Source)
    • Roughly 1 million people are expected to starve because of drought in countries such as Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Afghanistan. (Source)
    • The cultivation of Khat requires deep well irrigation and uses a disproportionate amount of water compared to food crops. (Source)
    • Growing Khat requires farmers to build terraces, resulting in large pits where the soil is taken, scaring the landscape. (Source)

    KJ-2: It is likely that the production of Khat will increase in Yemen because of the worsening of living conditions resulting from the civil war in the next 6 months.

    • Cultivating Khat is much more lucrative than growing fruit per hectare. (Source)
    • Chewing Khat is one of the few certain pastimes still available in the war-torn country. (Source)
    • Research estimates the producing and selling of Khat to make up 40% of the Yemeni economy. (Source)
    • Yemen has one of the highest rates of poverty in the Arab world. (Source)
    • Far too many people rely on Khat to make a living for any governing body to make any reform regarding it in Yemen. (Source)
    • Soldiers consume khat in large quantities on all sides in the civil war. (Source)

    KJ-3: It is likely that as climate change worsens, they will question the role of Khat in Yemen and other regions with heavy use in the next 6 months.

    • The COP27 climate conference is being held in Egypt, drawing attention to climate change in the region. (Source)
    • The East Mediterranean and Middle East are expecting temperatures to rise almost twice as quickly as anywhere else in the world. (Source)
    • Yemen’s Khat addiction has been blamed for Yemen running out of water. (Source)
    • The Yemeni government, before the civil war, recognised Khat consumption as an issue and tried to introduce multiple levels of regulation on it. (Source)
    • With three out of four Yemenis relying on agriculture or livestock for a living, climate change will have a harder impact. (Source)

    Intel Cut Off Date: 24th of November 2022


    Aidan Hickey
    Aidan Hickey
    Aidan is a Third Year War Studies Student at King's College London with a keen interest in the Middle-East and Insurgency.

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