How are people in Yemen using a drug to make themselves feel like they’re healing, yet it’s also having the opposite effect on their country? The drug is called qat, which is sucking up the country’s much-needed water supply and also might be making people in the government rich.
Despite the 20% consumption tax on the drug, its use has only increased since the war began two years ago. The money from that tax goes straight to the government, a government which also owns much of the land used to grow the plants. The Houthi rebels who took over Yemen’s capital Sana’a two years ago have accused the government of being corrupt.
Qat, a narcotic, and sorghum is grown on terraced fields in the village of Shahara.
Most Yemenis are not capable of seeing the connection between the drug and the brutality of the situation in their country. Not only does the drug invigorate them, heal them, and keep their spirits up in these trying times, it is a tradition dating back much further than the conflict or the climate-change-induced drought. As the custom of taking the drug depletes water, uses up the already sterile land, and is a driving factor of both the debilitating starvation and incessant warfare, the Yemeni people still use khat, which keeps them cripplingly poor, hungry to the point of famine, dying of thirst, and without a semblance of hope.