1. Introduction: historical background
2. World interest in khat
3. The legal attitude of Saudi Arabia towards khat
4. Khat in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
5. Achievements of the Board:
- the roads
- the buildings
- water supplies
- health services
- municipality services
- electricity services
- P.T.T. services
- lightening conductors
- public services and tourism
6. The State's project to eliminate khat
Introduction: historical background
The Mat tree which has started to arouse world interest and is the object of serious scientific studies, analyses and scientific seminars, is not new and dates back to antiquity. It may be difficult to determine with accuracy the time and place where it was first found. Some authors say ut was known since ancien times. Mirab the historian contends that the ancient Greeks knew about smoking khat and the the Greek historian, Homer has mentioned it. It is said that Alexander the Great ordered his army to use it as a medicine to prevent epidemics which then threatened the army but it is certain that khat was known and used on the Ethiopiasn plateau where this tree was found long ago.
As to Arab sources on this subject, in a manuscript from the middle ages where Najib-el-Dine Al-Samargandi (who died in 1220), mentions the existence of khat in Yemen and its use as a medicine for apathy and melancholy (Manuscript 143 -National Library, Paris). Al-Magrizi (1364-1442) mentioned the existence of khat in Somalia. Rochet de Hercourt wrote that khat was brought to Yemen from Ethiopia in 1429 by Sheikh Abu Zerbein. Shehab-el-Dine Ahmad Ibn Abdul Gader, who is from the region of Gizan, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (born in 1580) writes in his book on the conquest of Ethiopia about the use of khat in Yemen and Aden. Khat was brought in and cultivated in this region by Ali Ibn Omar Al-Shazli in the year 1424. The general idea is that khat was introduced to the Arabic peninsula from Ethiopia at the same time as coffee and were cultivated in the mountainous regions in Yemen and from there passed on to some Saudi mountains. Some sources to some Saudi mountains. Some sources indicate that khat was introduced to Yemen before Islam, when the Ethiopians conquered Yemen. As for the Western countries it was first mentioned in the 18th century by the first scientific expedition to Yemen, sent by Frederick V of Denmark, in 1762, to check some facts mentioned in the New Testament. The objectives of the expedition expanded to include geography, botany and zoology inter alia. Among the scientists participating in that expedition were Carsten Niebuhr, specialized in geography, Peter Forskal, botanist, Von Haven linguist, Kramer, doctor and zoologist and Loren Vierno, designer and draughtsman. Before he died, Forskal had spoken of a number of plants among them khat, which was called Catha Edulis. His friend and companion in the expedition, Niebuhr, collected the documents and observations and published them in specialized newspapers in 1775 calling the plant Catha Edulis Forskal, to honour the memory of his friend.
WORLD INTEREST IN KHAT
The reference to certain statistics leads us to wonder, like Trillo, why khat is not prohibited ? It is a social plague that should be eliminated even if only gradually. The most recent studies carried out by the University of Kuwait show that in the Yemen Arab Republic, 80% of the male population over 10 consume khat in different quantities. According to other statistical data the percentage of Yemeni women consuming khat is more than 30%. Likewise, a large percentage of children and school boys and girls consume khat, especially during the period of examinations. Moreover, there are unofficial statistics according to which Yemenis spend tens of millions of Rials per day on khat. What the citizen spends amounts, at least, to half of his income. That is why a Yemeni scholar, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Mufaleh, Rector of the University of Sanaa, said during an interview that "Khat is in my view an Arab tragedy, without solution". The Yemenis spend all their income on khat. They could steal or accept bribes to satisfy their needs. Khat growers are the owners of "green petrol" in our countries. Their wealth is stacked in bags, and their country houses are equipped with the most modern gadgets, unlike their dwellings in Sanaa. In fact, they do not invest their money (Magazine "Sayedati" Nr. 47, 1982).
Dr. Ahmad Nabil Abu Khatwa declared in an interview that the trade of khat in Yemen involves more than 6000 merchants who pay to the government at least 2 million Yemeni Rials per day, as compulsory taxes on khat. This amount to 10% of the income tax. This does not include the sale in the countryside and isolated regions where tax collectors do not go. This means that such taxes amount to 720 million Rials per year. Since this amount represents 10% of what is paid for khat, it means that the citizen spends per year more than 8 billion Rials without counting what is not taxed. In a small country like Djibouti, a study carried out by a number of French medical doctors states that people buy 80,000 bunches of khat per month. The average price of one bunch is 180 Djibouti Francs, that is a total of 14,400,000 Francs per month. If this sum were spent on foodstuff it would fee 8,000 citizens per month.
In Ethiopia, where it is grown, khat was considered as the fifth export in 1967 whereas now the ranking is even higher. The Ethiopian exports to Djibouti for example in 1972 amounted to 110 tons. According to recent statistics it exports between 3.5 and 3.6 tons a day, at the expense of the citizen's pocket in Djibouti and at the expense of arable land in Ethiopia. Detailed statistics on Djibouti show that 10% of the public budget is accounted for by taxes on khat and that one third of the salaries and wages are spent on khat. As for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, despite the limitation of the use of khat to one region, the price paid for it drains a large part of the income of the citizen because he gets it on the black market in view of the severe regulations and heavy penalties. I cannot quote figures concerning the amounts paid, for there is a study that will be submitted to the conference. But because of my post, I am certain that hundreds of millions are spent by the citizens on this plague. And this may be at the expense of food, clothing and lodging for the family. The picture will be clearer when we hear figures concerning Somalia, South Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia inter alia.
These figures have led many international and regional organizations to consider khat as a social and economic problem and carry out research on its probable health hazards. On the international level, in 1935 the problem was raised in the League of Nations where the Advisory Committee on Illicit Drug Traffic discussed two technical questions dealing with khat, without adopting a resolution or formulating recommendations providing for international intervention in order to prohibit or control the spreading of khat. However, some countries had been aware of its hazards and prohibited its cultivation, sale and use. For instance in French Somalia in 1921, its sale was forbidden and was subjected to a special permit intended for consumers whose names were registered by official authorities. In Kenya, it was forbidden to grow khat in the northern regions and its use was prohibited specially among the youth. In 1956 the subject was put before the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (11th session) where the Egyptian delegation drew the attention of the Commission to the dangers of the problem. During the 12th session, France submitted to the Commission a research study showing the medical, social and economic aspects of khat in Djibouti, where, at the time, it was prohibited to import khat from Ethiopia. But that law was repealed and replaced by a system of controlling the prices, registering, and asking for permits to import and chew it. The import of khat was also taxed in British Somalia at the time. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs put forward the following questions:
a) Is chewing and consuming khat harmful ?
b) If that were the case, what is the scope of the hazard and does it require international action ?
c) If struggle against khat requires international action, what are the steps to be taken and how can one help carry them out while studying its effects on the economy of those countries ?
Three points of view resulted from the discussions of the Medical and Social Committee:
1) Some delegates considered that the social and medical problems associated with khat were dangerous and that khat was a drug like any other.
2) Some delegations thought that khat was less dangerous than other drugs but that an international position should be adopted to check its use in view of its hazards on the social and economic level.
3) A third group said that khat was undesirable but that there was no danger in its use requiring international action.
So the Commission did not adopt any resolution and asked the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations to study the medical aspect of khat and launched an appeal to the countries concerned with the khat problem to present all information and studies and research in hand on the cultivation, production and consumption of khat in their lands.
This subject was raised in many international and regional conferences and seminars but no clear position was adopted which I thkin is due to two important reasons. First the subject does not arouse special enthusiasm among officials of the United Nations Organizations because it does not affect all Western countries like hashish and opium. Secondly the countries where khat is grown and is used by the citizens are not eager to take firm resolutions against it on various grounds. Either the countries profit from the export of khat or the majority of their inhabitants use the substance. No one is interested in following up this subject and unfortunately certain people think that the decision must be a political one.
Although international conferences and seminars have discussed khat, no binding resolutions were adopted, only recommendations. Some governments took initiatives and measures to prohibit cultivation of khat on their lands and to diminish its spread among the people by imposing taxes as it happened for instance in Somalia in 1956. Great Britain did the same in its colonies in Aden, Kenya and British Somalia. As for Tanzania, the Pharmaceutical and Poison Board put khat under control and in 1958 the Arab Republic of Egypt prohibited khat cultivation by a decree. When khat started to be imported into the Sudan from Aden and Yemen, the Sudanese government prohibited its cultivation, use and trade. In Morocco, as well, it was prohibited and considered as a drug.
In the Arab Republic of Yemen, in 1972, the head of government spoke of the social and economic effects of khat and took some actions. The most important one dealt with the prohibition of cultivating khat on public land, dismissal of employees who consumed khat, urging the farmers to diminish their crops, and launched information campaigns to warn people against its hazards. But these efforts were not accepted by the population and the government was obliged to withdraw its resolutions. In Democratic Yemen the government took a number of steps to limit the spreading of khat either through taxes or by setting special hours for using it, while launching public awareness programmes.
THE LEGAL ATTITUDE OF SAUDI ARABIA TOWARDS KHAT
There are three stages dealing with the subject of khat.
First stage: [before 1956 (1376 h)1.Letters were exchanged between the Ministry of Interior and other governmental authorities on the subject. The objective was the adoption of an official position on the legal and health aspects and consider it as a new subject to be studied. At the time the hazards related to the amounts used had not been determined, the situation was not clear. The quantities found were subject to customs offense and submitted to the decision of the customs commission. The same procedure as that of smuggled tobacco was applied to khat, that is fines were paid and the quantities found were confiscated.
Second stage: Starting in 1956 (1376 h). His Holiness the late Sheikh Mohammed Ibn Ibrahim in his capacity as Mufti of Saudi Arabia edicted a decree condemning khat and prohibiting its cultivation, import and use. After correspondence was exchanged between the Ministry of Interior, the Cabinet and His Holiness the Mufti, to determine the punishment, a religious decree was promulgated in 1957 (1377 h), providing punishment by flogging (40 strokes) for users, the destruction of the confiscated khat, confiscation of the means of transport, selling them and depositing their value in the public treasury. The decree provided the payment of rewards to those who expose the dealers and fining the latter with 12 Rials per Kg. During this period, a series of resolutions were enacted concerning the control of khat import and prohibition of cultivation, cutting down existing trees on some mountains and helping the growers by giving them other trees and seeds, advising and guiding them not to grow it and applying severe punishment to those who did not observe these instructions.
Third stage: A decisive and firm position was reached since the studies and committee reports mentioned the presence of khat trees on Saudi mountains bordering the brother country Yemen. Khat is used in the southern region and some of the expatriate communities residing in the Kingdpm use it freely, since it is legal in their own countries. We add to this the information gathered by the governmental representatives in the Conference on narcotic drugs and the health and socio-economic hazards of khat. Therefore a Royal Decree enacted in 1971 (1391 h) prohibitied cultivation, sale and use of khat, sentencing to prison and flogging those who disobeyed. Then an additional decree provided for the application of punishments envisaged for other drugs, to khat as well. Punishments for drug offences in the Kingdom are severe. They range from 2-15 years imprisonment with a fine of 10,000 to 20,000 Rials, apart from the customs fines, expulsion from the country of foreigners after having served their sentence, and of course, dismissal of citizens from their posts. The Ministry of Interior asked the Cabinet to approve that application of the new punishments begin three months after the date of publication in the mass media, and to deal with the present cases according to the previous regulations.
KHAT IN THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
The concern of the Government of the Kingdom does not reflect a fear for a large phenomenon but rather a clear desire to anticipate and deal with this subject before it becomes too complex, like any question which is hazardous for the health, mind, religion and social well-being of the people. As for khat, it groups all these hazards apart from draining the income of the citizen. All this interest has been shown despite the fact that use of khat is limited in Saudi Arabia only to the Gizan region. There are other rare cases in cities like Jeddah, the Holy Mecca and Riyadh and they mainly deal with non-Saudis who used to chew khat in their own countries.
Just as it dealt with the problem of khat, with wisdom and awareness and adopted progressive punishment, mentioned previously, the State also approached the issue of cultivation in the mountains of Feefa in the same manner. Having classified khat among narcotic drugs, the State authorities actively controlled its import and confiscated large amounts of khat coming from Yemen. Its traffic became punishable by a 15 years prison term plus fines. This gave the inhabitants of the mountains the opportunity to increase cultivation of khat since they were in the interior and the competent authorities were not aware of the extent of cultivation. Several committees were formed and sent to these mountains to report on the situation. It turned out that large numbers of khat trees constituted the major part of the cultivation. However, the problem was not easy to handle locally just with decrees and instructions foreign to the social and economic conditions of the people there. Furthermore, without the help of the State and the introduction of crop-replacement programmes it was impossible to eliminate khat cultivation. The committees recommended a global programme for the development and construction of the region, while destroying khat trees as it progressed.A Royal Decree approved the programme and established a committee comprising under-secretaries of the relevant Ministries to draw up a plan of action for the implementation of the programme. The Committee promoted the creation of a subsidiary body to implement the programme, with an independent budget under the supervision of a board of directors chaired by H.R.H. tkle Minister of Interior. The membership of the board consisted of under-secretaries of the Ministries of Interior, Communications, Finance, National Economy, Municipal and Rural Affaires, Agriculture and Water, the representative of the region of Gizan and the Director General of the newly created body. This body was created in 1978 (1398 h). It started its activities by a global study on the mountains of Feefa including collecting all the information necessary for development. It presented a comprehensive picture of the development programmes suggested, and the methods of enforcing them. After that, it prepared a statistical survey with the cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water and the Bureau of Public Statistics, dealing with data on the inhabitants and the agricultural equipment, the buildings and the number and variety of cultures of the area. The Board also rented premises in Riyadh and Gizan and once the advisory studies were over and approved it started to implement programmes either directly or with the help of the competent governmental authorities. During these few years, the Board accomplished the following results,
Since roads are the backbone of every development operation, specially in high mountains (1,800 m above sea level) they had special priority. A 17 km asphalted road was built between the village of Al-Abadabi and the slopes of the mountain. Then a 40km agricultural road was constructed with the help of public companies crossing the mountain east, west and north. Other roads built were the Al-Sulmani and Hazir roads. The Board surveyed, widened and repaired other roads with the people had started on their own, such as the Qardah and Al-Sarbah.
During 1983 (1403 h) we shall start the building of a 9 km long road connecting a series of villages such as Al-Zalmi and Al-Dafri, constructed with the most modern techniques.
At the same time, the main road in the mountains, 20 km long, will be asphalted and a maintenance system established. The Board has plans for a number of connecting road that will be constructed according to a timetable in order to provide, in the end, a network of roads crossing the mountains from every place and extending services to every spot.
The Board has constructed administrative and housing compounds in Feefa including offices and dozens of villas for the families and bachelors and a compound for the workers, in addition to a leisure centre comprising a restaurant, a playroom and a library. A mosque was also built near the compound so that the employees and citizens living nearby may pray. An agricultural experiment station comprising living quarters, offices, stores, a medical unit and a maintenance workshop was also set up.
The region used to suffer a great deal from a shortage of water and the people had to come down from the top of the mountains to get water from the valleys which necessitated long hours of climbing up and down. But a number of wells have been dug and with the advancement of road transport, it is now possible to get water to the highest spots on the mountains. The Municipality and the Board set up a number of water reservoirs near the roads, filled regularly by vehicles belonging to the Board or the contractors. The agricultural bank, which opened up a branch in the mountain region gives loans to the inhabitants to build reservoirs on the roof of their dwellings to collect rain water. The Board together with the Ministry of Agriculture is currently studying a project for digging more wells and setting up a network to bring the water to the big reservoirs in the housing compounds in the mountains. The preparation of the specifications of this project has already started and we hope that it will be carried out within two years.
The Board set up a medical unit with two doctors (one male, one female) two nurses (male and female) and a pharmacist. It provides services to about 150 patients per day. There are also two infirmaries at two different spots on the mountains. Recently, a modern building was rented in the centre of the mountains by the Ministry of Health to house a 50-bed hospital providing all health services and diversified specialist care and the Ministry is now furnishing it for official inauguration.
There is a project for a first-aid centre and an infirmary of the Red Crescent. The required land has been planned and the approval of the Ministry of Finance and National Economy is expected shortly. There is a continuous coordination between the Board and the health authorities in the development of these services.
The population of the mountains does not exceed 16,000, but there are 22 schools for boys, ranging from primary to secondary and religious schools to teach the Koran and also a scientific institute affiliated with the Islamic University of Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud. As to the education of girls, the building of roads overcame the previous obstacles and the Board together with the management of school education opened in a short time 10 primary schools for girls and with the help of God an intermediate school will be opened next year. Co-ordination between the Board and the management is very good and every year new schools will be opened in new spots.
A municipality was established in Feefa in co-operation between the Board and the Ministry for Municipal and Rural Affairs, providing numerous services other than those specific to the conditions on the mountains. It helps to bring water to the people, carries out surveys on the fields and buildings in preparation of establishing claimes of ownership. It will provide greater services when the real estate development fund starts to give loans to the citizens for construction of houses.
Included in the programmes of the Board is an electricity project for the region which is vast and requires specialized employees. There" has been collaboration with the public electricity board for the preparation of studies and specifications with the help of a specialized company. Agreements were signed for strengthening the Gizan power station and setting up a network to carry electricity to Feefa, providing electricity to all the villages along the road. An agreement will be signed to bring electricity to the houses in Feefa this year (1983- 1403h) and it will include large parts of Abian and Bina Malek, neighbouring regions of Feefa.This project will be completed in about two years.
The Ministry of P . T . T . has opened a post office and plans to establish a telegrammes service. As for telephone, the programme of the ministry for this service proceeds according to a time-table within its general plan. However, because we needed this service very quickly we co-operated in preparing a network for telephone communications which directly serves the governmental districts while providing the people with services through public booths. A contract was signed with a Saudi company to implement the project at the expense of the Board and during this year, there will be direct telephone connection between Feefa and the entire world. The project guarantees the extension of service to governmental centres in Abian and Bina Malek together with telex services and equipment to improve T.V. broadcast.
In view of their location, the mountains are exposed to lightnings which are dangerous to the people, their dwellings and cattle. The Board of directors approved the application of a project for setting up lightning conductors. A list of requirements was made before they were bought and we shall start on the project during the second half of this year.
PUBLIC SERVICES AND TOURISM.
As a result of the development project, the constructions and the expansion of means of transport, the number of petrol stations, car work-shops, carpenters' and blacksmiths' shops, brick factories, groceries and restaurants soared. A national bank was encouraged to open a branch in the mountains and this was approved by the financial authorities.
The excellent mountain air, the moderate temperature, the beautiful scenery, the tree-covered mountains present a picture, unlike any other town in the region, where temperatures rise above 40° in the summer. This is the lure for a great number of local tourists who spend their weekends here to enjoy the fresh mountain air.
The Board itself occasionally invites officials of the region to show them the services provided in the mountains. It also encourages excursions for students from various universities of the Kingdom with the same objective. We have plans for building hotels and motels and wish to attract the private sector for this purpose.
This aspects constitutes for the Board an essential objective around which it concentrates its concern. The development of agriculture has high priority since the life of the people depends on it. The trees that are cultivated are khat trees and we want to eliminate them by planting a substitute according to a co-ordinated programme which takes into account all circumstances and considerations. The Board created therefore an experimental agricultural station recruiting a great number of agricultural experts to run the various units consisting of:
1. Agricultural laboratory for water, soil and insects, under the supervision of an engineer with a Ph.D.
2. A meteorological station to record informations such as temperature, humidity, the quantity of rain fall and the wind.
3. Nurseries, where seeds sprout, for observation of the shoots
and experimenting on various fertilizers and insecticides.
4. Guidance and training centre.
5. Model farms with trees and plants that are ideal for mountains. There are two farms in two different spots in the mountains. One of them houses the headquarters at an altitude of 1000 m, the other in the Al-Nafia, at an altitude of about 1600 m.
6. An apiary containing a group of hives with all the equipments.
7. Warehouses for storing insecticides, tools and agricultural fertilizers of various kinds and seeds.
Programmes of the station:
In order to achieve the main objective of the station, the following programme, composed of two parts, was established: first, research based on experiments, second guidance and development dealing with the requirements of the farmers such as the appropriate tree sprouts, insecticides, training and financial encouragement.
1. As far as research and experiment are concerned, the programme provides two stages:
First: knowledge of the variety of appropriate fruit-trees Second: Choice of the most appropriate variety.
The following fruits are available in the station: bananas, grapes, apples, pears, figs, peaches, plums, almonds, apricots, citrus fruits, papayas and mangos. Some 1065 trees have been planted in the two fields of the station, all needing attention, control and registration of any changes in the experiments and the various operations they go through. We now have a thick register full of information on these trees. We have isolated the insects that attacked these trees and the insecticides used to destroy them. We have also tested many agricultural theories related to grafting trees on others or planting two sprouts in the same furrow (Brazilian method).
In the nursery garden of the station a great number of seeds of coffee are germinated and we now have more than 70,000 sprouts whose seeds were brought from Yemen and other Saudi regions. Mangos, papayas and guavas are grown also because cultivation in the mountains depends on rain and there is a concentration of rain there. There are two sorts of cultures in the station, one depending on irrigation, the other en rain water.
The experiments proved that the trees that were recommended as appropriate in resisting drought continue to grow depending on rain water only. As an additional precaution, experiments were carried out on some chemical products which help diminish the rate of evaporation and consumption of water. These experiments gave positive results and we shall store quantities of these products for that purpose.
It is clear now, that the most appropriate trees are primarily coffee, bananas, grapes, papayas and almonds. Because the Board is keen on the implimentation of the programme of agricultural substitutes, it secured 230,000 sprouts from abroad, 100,000 of coffee, 75,000 of bananas and the rest of various sorts. This requires supervision of growth and the adaptation to the environment. We can only accept trees from suppliers when they have been in the nursery garden near the station for six months, so as to be sure of their good origin and the possibility of their being replanted. Of these trees we presently have 300,000 sprouts.
The second stage of the programme of the station consists of guidance and training and providing equipments, sprouts and fertilizers, surveying the fields and determining the number of trees to be planted and their variety according to the nature of the region. As we mentioned before, we brought large quantities of sprouts, fertilizers and insecticides. We equipped the training and guidance centre under the supervision of a specialist in agricultural guidance with a Ph.D. We prepared agricultural publications giving advice as to the best way of cultivating the trees and to the method of preparing the furrow, mixing the soil and preparing the ground. To encourage the people to understand the objectives of the Board and the experiments carried out, the Board of Directors decided to give a bonus amounting to 50 Rials for each tree planted. This was given free of charge together with the fertilizers and an engineer form the Board provided guidance during the operation of planting. Afterwards, when the tree bears fruit, he received another grant of 100 Rials.
This incentive has led many people to turn to the Board for help. The operation started in the first months of this year and within one week from the planting, the Board has given the promised financial aid to the owners to show the farmer its eagerness and concern, so that they can continue to take care of these trees. The specialists of the station will have to prepare television programmes to guide and advise the farmers,within the framework of local broadcasts, so that they visit the farmers to convince them to join the programme of the Board and to replace khat trees by others.
The main objective of the Board at the experimental agricultural station is the destruction of khat trees and replacing them with other trees. The station itself will co-operate with the farmer to cut down the trees and to be sure they cannot be grown again. That is why we have thought of starting experiments in destroying khat trees either by chemicals or other means. The method decided upon is that of digging a hole of 60-80 cm around the tree, cutting the stem then putting a by-product of petrol on the trunk that was cut. This system was successful and the tree that was thus treated does not grow again.
This is summary of the activities of the station concerning the agricultural aspects of the global development. Apart from the efforts of the Board, there is a branch of the Agricultural Bank that opened in 1982 (1402 h) that gives its support to the operation of agricultural development and gives loans to the farmers in many fields, including the following:
1. Buying tractors and bulldozers.
2. Building water reservoirs in the regions of agricultural gradations, to stock rain water and use it for irrigation during the dry season.
3. Fencing agricultural properties to protect the plants from the grazing catlle and trespassers.
4. Rebuilding of gradations that were destroyed.
5. Seasonal loans to buy fertilizers and seeds and paying wages.
6. Providing manual ploughs.
Soon after its opening, the bank considered more than 150 requests, 80% of which are paid now, amounting to nearly one million Rials, the average loan being 50,000 Rials.
This is a short exposé of what was achieved in the field of development and construction in this region. There are still other programmes that will be carried out by governmental committees in the framework of plans that need time.
THE STATE'S PROJECT TO ELIMINATE KHAT.
The consumption of khat as a social phenomenon in the region of Feefa and its cultivation which is a tangible fact can only be treated objectively through a detailed study, like any other phenomenon dealing with drugs or having social, economic and psychological dimensions. We have to take the background into account and deal with the problems with more wisdom. That wisdom must look for the motivations and provide solutions and substitutes and establish a time-table to take society from the stage of consuming the drug to a stage during which we create awareness of the hazards and to the final stage of stopping consumption.
The far-sighted and wise method is the one adopted by the Kingdom to deal with the problem. It should be observed that progressing in stages in the punishment for khat, first considering it like tobacco smuggling, until the moment of flogging and arrests and then applying the punishment intended for crimes dealing with drugs, reflects clearly the far-sightedness in approaching this problem. When the Kingdom decided to apply these severe punishments it was deemed appropriate that sentences should only be enforced after publicizing it through all the media for three months following the enactment of the decree. The State was aware of the scope of khat cultivation in the mountains of Feefa and how the people depended on its trade before prohibition. Therefore, it exempted that region from such punishment. And approached the question with appropriate studies and programmes. It created an independent and specialized body, with an independent budget to" construct and develop the region and change the existing attitudes by suggesting suitable agricultural substitutes and planning a good infrastructure. Thus, all went well taking into account the time and conditions in order to destroy the khat trees and diminish consumption of khat in Gizan.
The programme to eliminate khat is based on development in a wide sense, by using the following means:
1. Studying and sizing up the problem and determining its substitutes.
2. Developing and building up the region by starting with roads, electricity, telephone, more schools and health services.
3. Providing the substitute trees and fertilizers and seeds free of charge with financial aid amounting to 50 Rials for each tree and to 100 Rials when the tree bears fruit. This aid is not intended only to encourage people to take the trees from the Board and reject khat, but also to help the farmers survive in the period between planting and harvesting and to keep them on their land.
4. Employing people in the Board and other governmental services and companies in the region to guarantee a stable salary keeping their mind away from khat.
5. Limiting the grants given by the Agricultural Bank and by the Board to the farmers who express their readiness to destroy khat trees. This policy has polarized a great number of citizens, who do not grow khat and who have become the allies of the Board when they have felt that these grants were not a compensation for khat. At the same time the grower of khat has started to feel that he is deprived of these grants because of the presence of khat on his land.
6. Stationing permanent and mobile security forces at the entrance of the mountainous region in order to stop the traffic of khat towards other parts of the region. These forces have confiscated great quantities that were burnt on the spot, alongside the main road, so that it is seen by the passers-by, Many cars were confiscated in the same manner, because their owners had left them behind when being chased. The forces were able to reach their objective, that is creating a sense of despair among growers of khat as to the future of the tree. For if they cannot sell their product it would be a catastrophy for them and they would have to revise their attitude towards the Board which hands out an authorized tree together with grants and loans. On the other hand, the forces dissuade those who take t the risk of dealing in khat because once they are caught they lose their merchandise and car and spend 15 years in prison.
A public relation service was created to carry out this programme and collaborate with other governmental services in this respect.We have published leaflets, booklets and posters to draw people's attention to the dangers and damages of khat. Literature will be distributed in schools and offices and in public places, etc. Along the roads and in public squares, there will be bill-boards for the same purpose. On the other hand there is co-ordination with the Ministry of Waqf so that the Imam, during the Friday sermon, mentions the problem of khat and shows that it is prohibited by Islamic LaW: One of the projects in this field consist in setting up local television programme giving out advice on khat and on general subjects. This will have a great impact because television will allow us to enter each home and talk to the citizen. We shall also prepare articles that will be published in the local newspapers and which will concentrate on the harmful aspects of khat.
We are thinking of co-ordination between the Board and the central services for youth to create a sport centre at Gizan and another one in the mountains of the Feefa to occupy the leisure time of the youth in a way to distract them from the consumption of khat and other drugs. There will be also a coordination between the Board and the literary club of Gizan so that it expands its activities and organizes seminars on the social problems that hinder development, including debates on khat.
With the help of this programme, we are sure that, God willing, we shall solve the problem of khat in the very near future. The mountains of Feefa will be covered with forests of coffee, bananas and grapes instead of khat.