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Hopes increase toward a Yemen without Qat
PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:05 pm Reply with quote
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Hopes increase toward a Yemen without Qat

Posted in: Culture & Society
Written By: Observer Staff
Article Date: Nov 7, 2009 - 12:45:50 PM

As a majority of Yemeni households chew Qat, the World Bank discussed their integrated Qat Demand Reduction agenda, last Monday, November 2. The meeting’s purpose was to raise public awareness and further education on Qat consumption and its impact on people’s live particularly children, youth and women, and on the economy and natural resources.

The consultative meeting also aimed to share with key partners the latest information on the Integrated Qat Demand Reduction Agenda by the government and stakeholders. The meeting was also used to delegate who will be the key players to undertake the tasks of public awareness and campaign programs.

Qat causes major adverse impacts in the development of Yemen. Around 30% of household income goes directly towards purchasing the narcotic and leisure time, chewing, occupies between 6 to 8 hours per day, dramatically reducing productive work time. The land taken out of food production has led to household impoverishment and food insecurity. Qat production is increasing by 10% a year, replacing food and exportable crops. Its cultivation is a leading source of groundwater depletion, consuming 30% of the nation’s groundwater extraction, and causing soil degradation by removing plant nutrients. The high use of pesticides on the crop contaminates drinking water. Qat consumption also leads to neglect of the living environment and extensive spread of uncontrolled plastic bags that hold the leaf.

As a narcotic, Qat induces psycho-neural effects, including wakefulness, suppression of appetite and depression. Physical symptoms include high blood pressure, tooth decay, constipation, hemorrhoids and hernias. The most serious consequences include cancers, liver cirrhosis and kidney disease, due to consumption of pesticide residues and exposure of toxic pesticides used on the plants. Equally serious is child malnutrition and neglect, from parents’ obsession with Qat and its exacerbation of poverty.

Qat causes dramatic social effects. Qat chewing reduces quality time spent with children, and reinforces gender separation. It is also believed to cause family conflict linked to the high expenditures on Qat and long hours away from the family. Among youth, it encourages use of other harmful substances, promotes idleness, and its inducement of depression leads to loss of hope for the future, resulting in anger and anti-social behavior.

Since 1999, the government has adopted a number of specific policies aimed at regulating and taxing Qat, but has yet to arrest growth in either production or consumption. Therefore, this plan deals with water conservation and the introduction of new cash crops, both of which could be expected, over time, to encourage farmers to shift resources out of Qat production.

The Qat Consumption Survey produced by the World Bank in 2007, raised concern and encouraged key government officials in the country to present a set of recommendations, later entitled Elements of A Qat Demand Reduction Agenda. Included in this agenda are many steps like building public awareness, increasing the tax wedge to make Qat more costly to consumers, and preventing youth from starting the habit.
The Bank’s Qat Dialogue Task Force, which started in late 2007, has been assisting the GoY to establish an implementation framework for Qat production and consumption control. The work has tried to establish a viable road map, with consensus on a set of actions, assigned responsibilities, targets, specific expected outputs and outcomes emerging from the set of recommendations and policy measures endorsed in 2002. These were later developed in detail at the June and October 2008 national workshops.

The proposed agenda for the World Bank engagement under the new Country Assistance Strategy (CAS), would be through a set of interventions involving close partnership with the government, leading the effort, civil society, private sector including the media and donor community.

The support needed includes: a comprehensive program to raise public awareness and education on Qat consumption and its impact on people’s lives particularly children, youth and women, and on the economy and natural resources; undertaking detailed assessments and document good practices on why certain districts and their communities have been successful in uprooting Qat and help replicate and scale up these activities in two to three other areas; supporting research on selected topics such as medical research on Qat consumption and social impacts on the most vulnerable groups; help address the overuse of pesticides and help develop alternative pest control agents and safety measures in partnership with GEF, and; to the extent possible mainstream the efforts to reduce Qat in on-going projects financed by the Bank and other partner organizations.

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Hopes increase toward a Yemen without Qat
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