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February 28, 2010 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Dating back to 6 Centuries before Common Era; Sana'a ( some photo links borked ) in Yemen will become the World's First modern Capital City to Run Out of Water. Apart from drought Yemen's lack of water is a direct result of growing the stimulant Qat. (wiki ). Yemen is well on its way to becoming the world's next failed state.
( History and Qat related.
posted by adamvasco (31 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
That last link, btw, seems to be behind the Economist's paywall.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:23 AM on February 28, 2010


You think you've seen war fighting for oil? Just wait until humans start fighting for water.
posted by localhuman at 9:24 AM on February 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


All that water for Qat?

The spice must flow...
posted by DCCooper at 9:27 AM on February 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Has anyone here ever had Qat? What is it like?
posted by milarepa at 9:30 AM on February 28, 2010


seems like you could replace "qat" with "coffee" for any south american country and have a similar article; the only difference being that coffee, by definition being a rain forest crop, wouldn't come with the water shortage issues.

and yes, wars over oil will pale in comparison to water wars.

that 6th (pulitzercenter.org) link neatly demonstrates why first world interests have been so abjectly useless when presented with third world warlords. We don't understand the politics, the factions or the society, and throwing money at the problem only helps exacerbate it, doesn't solve it in any way.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:34 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Government subsidies encourage qat cultivation

Some studies done in 2001 estimated that the income from cultivating khat was about 2.5 million Yemeni rials per hectare, while it was only 0.57 million rials per hectare if fruits were cultivated.

So I'm curious if 2.5 million is with or without the subsidies, which themselves seem unwise, if not downright foolish. Subsidizing a crop that isn't a food product, when you don't have enough water to grow food sounds like a horribly counter-productive policy.

But if the Yemeni government doesn’t see al Qaeda as its problem, it does see it as an opportunity. The U.S. war on al Qaeda comes with an open checkbook, Yemen is bankrupt, and Saleh has never been one to waste a crisis.

Ah, there we go...
posted by This Guy at 9:34 AM on February 28, 2010


Yemen: The Most Dangerous Place You Never Heard Of

This is an essay I did a while back on the subject of Yemen. There is a lot going on there worth paying attention to.

And I find Qat disgusting - think a mouthful of runny green avacado/chewing tobacco. There is a small buzz tho, but perhaps I had the "tourist" version.
posted by Aetius Romulous at 9:37 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


okay okay, I wasn't being clear in my direction above...

If you take away the water crisis issues (granted that's a big issue), OR if somehow the coffee crop presented a similar conflict of interest / crisis, then how in the name of god's little green apples is the subsidy, consumption of, and presumably long-standing culture and tradition surrounding qat usage ANY different than the West's similar, long-standing use of coffee? How?

Really? are we going to be that condescendingly dismissive of a nation's "ugly habit" when we don't even have the perspective to look at it objectively? I thought MetaFilter discourse was better than that.

(full disclosure: I was rather taken aback by the tone of "ooo FILTHY DRUG USERS" that seems implicit in that alternet.org article)
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:42 AM on February 28, 2010


If you don't already know about it, the blog Waq al-Waq provides fascinating and smart coverage of Yemen.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:46 AM on February 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


lonefrontranger, I read that alternet article more as a judgement of their decision to cultivate a narcotic substance over a food crop when there's severely limited resources. The articles mention khat as a national pastime and mild narcotic, and the first mention of it being filthy that I saw was Aetius Romulous above, which was more of a personal observation and opinion than a denouncement of the users themselves.
posted by This Guy at 9:56 AM on February 28, 2010


thanks, fourcheesemac, it seems like the authour of that blog said something similar to what I just pointed out.

So ok, I know for shit about Arabic nations, have a high school education and lack any sort of political science savvy (it's my least favourite subject actually). Surely if someone as ignorant as I am groks that the OMG QAT IS EVIL slant smells like first world Western privileged attitudes once again taking the piss on subjects it doesn't fully comprehend, it should be an available thought to the rest of the user base here.

OK, END OF DERAIL. WATER CRISIS BAD. LFR HUNGRY. MAKE PANCAKES. GO SNOWSHOEING.

GRAR.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:00 AM on February 28, 2010


Yemen seems to have completely dropped off the Western media's radar (again) after all the fuss about Umar Abdulmutallab dissipated. It will have to return to the spotlight eventually when conditions have become even worse there.

I was rather taken aback by the tone of "ooo FILTHY DRUG USERS" that seems implicit in that alternet.org article

This SkyNews article has an even more hectoring, paternalistic tone.

My question, though, apart from the tone: are the implications (that a lot of Yemen's people, i.e. 80% of the male population, are "addicted" to khat) wrong? I'm not snarking, I'm asking -- I honestly don't know.

I read that alternet article more as a judgement of their decision to cultivate a narcotic substance over a food crop when there's severely limited resources.

Whose decision? If I were Yemeni, and I had a choice between cultivating a food crop and a khat crop, and the khat crop brought me more income, what would I choose? The alternet piece says that the Yemeni government subsidizes khat production. Again, if I get a subsidy to grow khat, and no subsidy to grow a food crop, what would I choose?
posted by blucevalo at 10:11 AM on February 28, 2010


Yemen: where the CIA sends people it really doesn't want back.
posted by Artw at 10:14 AM on February 28, 2010


Related: lol-qats, which may help explain why qat is sucking the Yemeni economy dry, literally.

"It's true that qat uses much of our water but Yemen cannot live without qat." Another said, "We depend on qat. Without it, Yemen is impossible. God will help us find new water."

The comment about God fixing the problem worries me about God believers, the child-like passivity when facing a difficult problem, which seems, imo, to require adult logic and thoughtful conversation.
posted by nickyskye at 10:16 AM on February 28, 2010


Those with further interest about Yemen might find Jane Novak's website, which was banned by the Yemeni government, a further source of information. Meanwhile lack of funds threatens the U.N. aid operation. One in three Yemenis - or 7.5 million people - suffer chronic hunger.
posted by adamvasco at 10:38 AM on February 28, 2010


Well let's hope that desalination with carbon nanotube membranes works out. Then they can grow all the qat they want, plus grow forests to hide their qat plantations from the ATF in.
posted by XMLicious at 10:39 AM on February 28, 2010


If you take away the water crisis issues (granted that's a big issue), OR if somehow the coffee crop presented a similar conflict of interest / crisis, then how in the name of god's little green apples is the subsidy, consumption of, and presumably long-standing culture and tradition surrounding qat usage ANY different than the West's similar, long-standing use of coffee?

Well, it's probably not any worse — although I'd say that subsidizing coffee or tobacco in the West is also a very, very bad idea — but I don't think you can just remove the water crisis and still have a useful discussion. The only reason we're talking about qat at all is because of the water crisis.

If there wasn't a water shortage, then qat would just be another interesting mild-stimulant-of-choice. I think it's actually better compared to chewing tobacco than coffee, but I don't know if it's really even been researched thoroughly enough to determine if it has the same health risks. But except to public health folks and tourists who want to work their way through the planet's various natural uppers and downers, it wouldn't really matter that much.

The problem is that qat is being cultivated preferentially to food crops, in an area with an impending food crisis due to water shortages. This is the sort of situation that calls out for government intervention in the other direction — subsidizing food crops or prohibiting qat cultivation even if the market price is higher — in order to prevent a tragedy down the road. But exactly the opposite is seemingly happening, and it looks in all probability like it's going to be a hell of a mess.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:41 AM on February 28, 2010


The comment about God fixing the problem worries me about God believers, the child-like passivity when facing a difficult problem, which seems, imo, to require adult logic and thoughtful conversation.

Substitute STALIN for GOD and this statement reads more or less true for Soviet Russia at the peak of his power, does it not? That is, the problem isn't God. The problem is the mental and spiritual weakness inherent in any earnestly held belief that supposes some grand and powerful outside force will solve all of one's problems.
posted by philip-random at 10:45 AM on February 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know, I read one of those links last night, and all I could think about is how high the price of Qat will go when the Yemeni water supply finally fails. Given that the plant is legal in the UK and Netherlands, I reckon somebody could clean up if they converted some greenhouses to Qat. There's already a large market for it in the UK, and given that the price here includes the cost of flying it in (it needs to be fresh), I'm sure it's economical to grow already.

Um, though I sound like I'm looking for investors, I'm not...I am really.
posted by Sova at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2010


Flood their market with cheap foreign-grown Qat now, drive the price down, and let their farmers get back to the business of growing food. It would be cheaper and kinder than dealing with the mess that would come if 28+ million people were to run out water, food, and Qat but not run out of AK-47s, rocket launchers, and pirate boats.

Also, could they synthesize Cathinone using less water? Maybe Qat gum could be the long-term answer.
posted by pracowity at 12:05 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has anyone here ever had Qat? What is it like?

A friend of mine had a source of dried Qat from an Ethiopian friend of his a couple of years ago. I tried some of it. Basically, you just stick it in your cheek and hold it there. I thought it was pretty disgusting, and the high was basically like ritalin. It gets a 'meh' from me.
posted by empath at 12:07 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Had a housemate who was into it at uni. He was a bit hyper and a bit mad anyway, so it really did him no favours. He'd happily push it onto anyone else who dropped by, the general consesus being that it was disgusting and gave at best a coffee like buzz. Still, he seemed pretty hooked.
posted by Artw at 12:19 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has anyone here ever had Qat? What is it like?

Yeah, pretty meh. Not as good as a nice long macchiato.
posted by pompomtom at 2:48 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds like the simplest way to fix this is get some baristas over there, on the double! Recognizing that you have a national caffeine shortage is the first step to deliverance.
posted by sneebler at 5:14 PM on February 28, 2010


William Vollman has a piece about chewing qat in Yemen. Can't seem to find it online.

I believe he described it as a pretty intense buzz, steps above coffee.
posted by bardic at 8:29 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apparently you have to chew the fresh stuff to get a real buzz off of it. From what I've read, the dried qat is nothing like fresh.
posted by MythMaker at 6:14 AM on March 1, 2010


Baghdad without a map also has a good essay on Yemen, part of which involves chewing qat. Horowitz also talks about history in Yemen, civil issues in Yemen, and how key qat is to socializing in Yemen (particularly, almost exclusively, among men). This last little tidbit is somewhat missing from the coffee analogy.
posted by whatzit at 9:14 AM on March 1, 2010


And I wanted to add, you can read part or all of the Yemen section by using "look inside." The name of the chapter is "Confessions of a Qat Eater."
posted by whatzit at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2010


Coincidentally, don't they grow pretty good coffee in Yemen, too? Maybe someone needs to give the Yemeni some soft of cheap, effective downer to help counteract all their homegrown stimulants. Wouldn't make the place any wetter but maybe then they would put down their guns for a while.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:45 AM on March 1, 2010




Millions of Yemenis starving as donors fail to meet pledges, says UN
posted by adamvasco at 11:27 AM on March 13, 2010


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