Qât as an Agricultural Phenomenon

Reviewed by Daniel Martin Varisco

Yemen Update 42(2000):57

While attending a conference in Sanaa last June, I met Dr. Ismâ‘î'l ‘Abd Allâh Muharram, Director of AREA (al-Hay'at al-‘Ammali-al-Buhûth wa-al-Irshâd al-Zirâ‘î) in Dhamâr. It was a thrill for me to meet him for the first time,especially when he remarked that previous work of my own had been helpful in writing his new booklet entitled Zâhiratal-Qât fî al-Yaman (The Phenomenon of Qât in Yemen). This is a 33-page Arabic resource, citing 12 sources in Arabic and 6 in English.

As Dr. Muharram notes in his introduction, qât is an issue not only for Yemen's agricultural development, but also for the economic, social and health aspects stemming from its production and use. The call by President‘Alî ‘Abdallâh Sâlih to stop the use of qât in the work place and public offices made it all the more important that accurate and up-to-date information on this"phenomenon" be provided to the public.

The booklet begins with an introduction defining the botanical and biochemical qualities of the plant. Dr.Muharram notes the main issue in the debate over the introduction of qât into Yemen: although at least one historical text implies it came to Yemen in the reign of the Rasulid al-Malikal-Mu'ayyad Dâ'ûd, it is not mentioned either in the travels of Ibn Battûta, nor is it hinted at in the extant agricultural treatises from the Rasulid era. At any rate, it seems clear that qât came to Yemen with Sufis. In recent history, the major expansion of qât cultivation began after the 1962 revolution in the north.

The text provides a handy summary of some of the main findings, including those by scientists and social scientists, about qât for an Arabic reader. You will find information about the plant itself, where it is grown, the ecological context of its cultivation, production estimates (e.g.,80,000 ha in production in 1990 compared with 57,000 for fruits and25,000 for coffee), production costs, and social issues. In addition there is a brief summary of some of the relevant publications. The summary presents a number of issues that need further study and analysis.

To contact AREA, the address is AREA, POB87148, Dhamar, Yemen. The e-mail address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .y.

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