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Phone service to tackle 'fat khats'

Bundles of khat, captured by the DEA in 2006 (US Drug Enforcement Agency)
Bundles of khat, captured by the DEA in 2006
US Drug Enforcement Agency

Producers and traders buying and selling the controversial stimulant khat (Catha edulis), can now check the market price of the plant using their mobile phones. Kenyan non-profit organisation Sakijo International has introduced an text messaging system to shed some light on the shadowy world of khat trading, giving farmers better information about the prevailing price in markets from London to Mogadishu.

Khat, a shrub native to the Horn of Africa and the Arab Peninsula, is widely used in Somalia and Yemen, where its leaves are chewed for their mild narcotic effect. It is exported to countries with large Somali communities such as the UK and Holland where the sale and consumption of khat leaves remains legal. With millions of regular users worldwide, the trade is big business and Sakijo International hopes the new service will enable khat producers to command a fairer price for their crop, and tackle the large commissions taken by middlemen.

Date published: September 2007


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