Newsbrief: Ethiopian Farmers Turn to Khat in Face of Drought, Low Coffee Prices 1/3/03

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Battered by drought and low coffee prices, Ethiopian farmers are pulling up their coffee trees and replacing them with khat, a mild, leafy stimulant used in the region for thousands of years. With coffee prices at a 30-year low, an estimated 75% of coffee farmers in the Hararghe highlands (home to the world famous, highly aromatic Harar coffee beans) have uprooted their trees and planted khat, said Tadessa Maskela, general manager of the Oromiya Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in the capital, Addis Ababa. Some farmers are growing both crops, he told the San Jose Mercury News Sunday.

While traditionally taken like tea in the Horn of Africa, khat has been banned in the US, Britain and Canada. As a result, khat fetches up to $200 a pound in the US -- compared to $12 for Ethiopian coffee. It also has an additional -- if temporary -- benefit for users in the drought-stricken, starvation-threatened Horn. "Khat is much better than coffee," coffee farmer Usmana Ali told the Mercury News. "A person can stay two days without eating. But then you fall down."

Khat is drought and pest resistant and requires less water and less time to grow than coffee. But the turn to khat production instead of coffee harms Ethiopia, according to government officials. Coffee was the country's primary source of foreign currency, and Ethiopia needs large amounts of hard currency to buy food for the estimated 11 million Ethiopians who could face starvation this year.

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Issue #270, 1/3/03 Editorial: Constitutional Inconveniences | Pressure for Change Mounts as Ontario Judge Rules Canadian Marijuana Possession Law Invalid 270/californiabudget Budget Crisis Forces California Governor to Consider Early Releases, Other Prison Measures | Prosecutors Enlist in Drug Czar's Anti-Marijuana Campaign -- Will Prioritize Marijuana Cases, Lobby Against Reform | Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 15-Dec Febrero, Mérida, México | Newsbrief: Connecticut Legislator to Reintroduce Medical Marijuana Bill | Newsbrief: Prosecutors Seize Bail Money, Claim Pot Smell -- A New Tactic? | Newsbrief: Louisiana Drug Raid Draws Protests | Newsbrief: France Looking to Heighten Marijuana Penalties | Newsbrief: NJ Weedman to Get Day in Federal Court After Months in Jail for Thought Crime | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Afghan Opium Farmers Drive Out Eradicators | Newsbrief: Ethiopian Farmers Turn to Khat in Face of Drought, Low Coffee Prices | DC Job Opportunities at DRCNet | The Reformer's Calendar

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