BOTANICAL INFORMATION:Kingdom: Plantea(unranked): Angiosperm(unranked): Eudicots(unranked): RosidsOrder: CelastralesFamily: CelastraceaeGenus: Catha ForsskSpecies: Catha edulis [1]

  • Khat is an evergreen flowering perennial shrub. The buds and leaves contain an alkaloid and are chewed either fresh or dried as a stimulant. It can grow up to 20 feet tall, and it has reddish brown leaves and white flowers.[1]

RELATED SPECIES: Cantola: Crucifixion Thorn Shrub
Celastrus: Staff Vine and Staff Tree
Euonymus: Poisonous Spindle Shrub

Mayenus: Matien [1]

COMMON NAMES: Khat; Qat; Kat; Chat; Miraa [2]

Shaded area where Khat is grown and consumed

  • Khat orininated in Etheopia during the 15th century, and has now become native to many East African and Arabian Peninsula countries. Those include, Kenya; Sudan; Somalia; and Yemen.[3]
  • Ancient Egyptians considered Khat a "divine food" which was capable of releasing humanities divinity. They would use the plant as a metamorphic process to transcend into apotheosis, made the user 'god-like.' [3]
  • Most popular use in Yemen. It is used as a socializing drug, like coffee is used in our culture. It is serves to welcome and entertain guests, in mourning, weddings and circumcision ceremonies. Males are the dominant users, and chew Khat during their business meetings because they feel it promotes decision making. [3]
  • Other counties and cultures use Khat as a recreational drug. It has become popular among farmers and laborers because it allows them to work longer hours without stopping for food or drink; and students because it improves their attention span.[3]
  • When harvesting the leaves, they must be consumed in forty-eight hours or they loose their stimulating euphoric effects. Most leaves are chewed fresh, but the leaves that have lost their freshness are dried and used in teas, spices, and smoked like tobacco.
  • In traditional African and Arabian medicine, Khat leaves and roots are considered a remedy for all difficult diseases.[4]

khat.jpg khat_bush.jpg

Economical Use:
  • In Ethiopia, it is their most lucrative cash crop. It creates many employment opportunities in the cultivation of the crop because many people take part in growing, harvesting, sorting, packing, and transporting, loading and unloading the plant. The wood is commonly used for fuel and in the construction of houses and fences. The wood is also used to build the handles of farm tools (hammers and chisels) and also the handles of household items (pots and pans, rolling pins, forks and spoons.)[4]

Medicinal Use:
  • Processed leaves and roots have been used to treat influenza, cough, gonorrhea, asthma and other chest problems. The root is also used for stomach ache and an infusion is taken orally to treat boils.[4]

Khat Market in Kenya:
  • Khat is mainly grown and exported out of Kenya. Khat is equivalent in its stimulating effects as coffee. And, just as coffee was banned in parts of Africa during the 16th century, so was the mildly narcotic khat, which has found itself at the center of moral debates. Islamic rulers in Somalia, recently banned use of the drug. This led Kenya, Somalia's biggest supplier, to stop all flights to its neighbor, sparking protests and triggering concern among khat growers and traders in Kenya because they saw exports drop by 40 percent. Flights have now resumed, but exports to Somalia have not returned to business as usual. [5]

Khat Market in Ethiopia:
-There are different varieties of khat available on the Ethiopian market, each demanding different prices. The usual varieties are:
  • Chirra (a short stemmed khat)
  • Umerkule (a strong type)
  • Karabule (these are freshly cut leaves that are delivered overnight)
  • Kerti (these leaves are freshly wrapped with false banana)
  • Kuda (a red color khat plant with very few leaves)
  • Abba Chebsi (a type named after a famous local dealer of the region) [6]

If you are looking for the best type of khat, then focus particularly on ‘dima’. These consists of medium sized reddish leaves and are believed to have longer and stronger effects. This makes it the best option for exporting to different countries. Another favorite of the farmers is the ‘dalotta’ which are the pale-yellowish smaller leaves because they have a greater effect and a lesser acidic taste.[6]

Khat taxonomy in Ethiopia is not under any legislation or regulation. The state is not involved with the khat markets in the country. It is the retailers, traders, wholesalers and exporters who are the ones in control of the market. They decide on the availability of the varieties of khat. They know how to estimate the price of the material depending on the freshness of it.[6]

The market in Addis Ababa is the largest place for khat trading. The Awedaay market in Eastern Ethiopia is another busy market of khat dealing. In 1994, it was estimated that around 350 traders took part in the market every day. Presently, around 700 kilograms of khat are traded daily in the Awedaay market. It is the second most important and busiest market after Addis Ababa. Khat markets like the Awedaay market are main centers of rural entrepreneurial activities. [6]