Khat in Somaliland
By: The PH Team
Somaliland is an unrecognized country in the Horn of Africa, internationally recognized as part of Somalia.
Although recognized as part of Somalia, the two countries couldn't be more different. While Somalia is in many ways a failed State, Somaliland on the other hand, offers tourists a safe and authentic glimpse into Somali culture in a region known for volatility.
What is Khat?
Khat is a stimulant, commonly used in Somaliland, Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen. Although very much a part of the culture in these countries, khat is considered a drug in most parts of the world and is in fact illegal in most countries across the globe.
Khat is most commonly consumed by chewing the raw leaves of the khat plant and holding them in one's cheek. Users report a light uplifting feeling, similar to drinking a few cups of coffee.
Khat in Somaliland
Khat use in Somaliland is extremely widespread. It is so widespread in Somaliland, that more than 90% of adult males in the country report chewing the bitter leaves on a regular basis.
It should be noted however, that in Somaliland the plant is not necessarily seen as a drug, but rather more of a cultural substance - like coffee.
The industry is huge in the country and employs a large number of local Somalilanders through the plant's import, distribution and sale.
Since the growing conditions of the plant are very particular, khat plants do not grow in Somaliland and therefore it is all imported from neighbouring Ethiopia.
While a big moneymaker for Ethiopia, the plant is a huge financial burden on a country who transacts in its own unrecognized currency - the Somaliland Shilling.
A large portion of the country's foreign currency goes into the import of khat from Ethiopia, rather than into other crucial infrastructure for the unrecognized country.
Since the substance is addictive, used but such a large percentage of the population, and is culturally and historically important to local Somalilanders, banning the import or use of the substance could potentially lead to social unrest.
As such, it is not considered a viable option for the government of Somaliland. It seems that khat will be a large part of society in Somaliland for years to come.