Like many curious features though, qat is slowly, but surely, killing Yemen.
|Terraced qat fields near Wadi Dhahr|
Using this area of qat cultivation and Ethiopian production estimates, 244 622 hectares of land could produce over 100 000 tonnes of coffee a year. Assuming Arabica coffee beans are used to replace qat, this amount is currently valued at 218.7 million USD, translating to substantial profits for rural farmers.
Worse, qat uses up about 30 percent of Yemen's already scarce water supplies. Yemeni agriculture relies primarily on groundwater, as rainfall is scarce. If qat cultivation continues, the lack of good profits it brings will mean that the government and general public will not have sufficient finances to cope with rising water prices, never mind the social and industrial consequences such a rise would entail.
Moreover, qat is chewed in afternoon sessions that begin after the Yemeni workday ends at 2-3 p.m. These sessions last about 3-4 hours and are social events in themselves. Logically speaking, time wasted in this way could be put to better use, mainly for longer (and more productive) workdays. It is difficult to directly connect the national qat addiction to Yemen's lack of development, but a quick comparision of the country with many of it's Arab neighbors is telling indeed.
|Men chew qat in a hut overlooking the crop in Yemen.|
Qat chewing sessions can last up to five hours a day.
Completely eradicating something which has got its claws so deeply sunk into a country is probably impossible. However, once the dust has settled in Yemen, a new government could begin by allocating land to other purposes and extending the workday. Post-revolution, Yemen will face many obstacles to progress. Here's hoping qat won't be a hurdle far into the future.