Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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ZERIHUN Girma, Haramaya University, Ethiopia

Khat, chat or qat (Catha Edulis) is a chewable green leaf that produces an effect of stimulation and euphoria and can lead to addiction with extensive use. This study investigates the impact of khat culture on the living standards of user households. There are heated discussions among scholars on whether khat has an impact on living standards. Inspired by these debates, the researcher explores the culture of khat in its ‘homeland’, Harar. Khat culture includes a ceremonial practice performed before, during, and after chewing. In Harar, khat culture has permeated the local economy, and the social, political and spiritual spheres. To assess how khat culture affects household living standards, the researcher compares the living standard of chewers and non-chewers. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches were used in the study. A cluster sampling method was used to identify respondents. The data was gathered through an interview schedule, in-depth interviews and non-participant observation. The data from the interview schedule was grouped, tabulated and analysed using SPSS. The open-ended data from the in-depth interviews were coded, organized and interpreted thematically. The study revealed that khat has a major impact on the living standards of user households. It was found that chewers and non-chewers differ in their ownership of domestic equipment and accommodation. There are also great differences in the quality and safety of homes. In addition, huge variations were found in the work culture and time management of chewers and non-chewers. Khat also affects the household budget (income and expenditure) and household wellbeing. On average, chewers spent 3.75 hours a day chewing khat. Average monthly spending on khat is 1800 birr, making a total of 21,600 birr per year. The data from interviews with key informants show that women are the main victims of the negative impacts of khat culture. The study concludes that khat culture negatively affects user households. It recommends that concerned bodies should not underestimate the impact of khat culture, but should also not take hasty measures to eradicate it; a step-by-step approach to eliminating khat is needed.