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IMPACTS OF CH’AT ON ETHIOPIAN SOCIETY AND THE WAY-OUT [Abstract ID: 0301-13]
In these opening decades of the 21st Century, Ethiopia is experiencing a veritable deluge from a small shrub plant that is exponentially invading its agricultural lands and the minds of its people. Ch’at production has surged, increasing its cultivation area by 160% and its production volume by 243% over the past 5 years. Ch’at has also become prominent in both the country’s domestic and foreign trade, to the extent that the Growth and Transformation Plan-II foresees the value of annual exports of ch’at growing from 272.4 million USD in 2014/15 to 650.8 million USD in 2019/20. Its domestic consumption, too, has skyrocketed over the same period, with 27.6% of all men and 11.0% of all women aged 15-49 reporting having chewed ch’at in 2011. Despite these figures, government intervention regarding ch’at is minimal. In view of this, research on the socioeconomic impacts of the practice and on possible measures to reverse the trend is absolutely necessary. The aim of the qualitative study whose findings are reported in this paper was to explore the socioeconomic impacts of ch’at through the perceptions of various categories of the populations of Harar and Assosa Cities and of the Federal-level authorities, by means of in-depth interviews, focus-group-discussions/interviews, and field observations. By generating primary data in these ways and analyzing them together with the available secondary information, the study identified: (a) trends in ch’at consumption and addiction; (b) the impacts of ch’at on family life and family economy, women and children, physical, mental and reproductive health, education and educational institutions, crime and its correction, and civil service delivery; and (c) assessed interventions being advanced by various actors to reverse the current trend. Furthermore, having established the total absence of any policy framework on ch’at, and having weighed the various alternative policy options, the paper argues for the institution of a regulatory framework governing the production, marketing, and consumption of ch’at. It argues that such a framework is both necessary and feasible as a way out of the current quagmire, and proceeds to present its main outlines.