Haatuf Media Network
Editor; Yusuf Abdi Gabobe - Asst. Editor: A. Dubad & Abdifatah M.Aidid - Sub. Editors: Hasan Hosh - Layout and Design: Ahmed Jama
Issue 32, Aug. 24, 2002
Demand End to Udub Subsidies
Hargeisa (SL Times): Somaliland’s opposition parties have voiced grave concerns over alleged financial support given to UDUB by the Somaliland government.
All political parties in Somaliland, including the government-controlled UDUB, agreed last month on a number of points that they deemed as a necessary prerequisite for fair and free elections. One of the points of agreement called on the government to refrain from furnishing public resources to contesting political organizations.
The political opposition accuses the government of continuing its financial as well as logistical support for UDUB. The sight of state-owned vehicles being used by UDUB campaigners during a party meeting, last Saturday, angered opposition groups.
Meanwhile, President Rayale announced last Saturday for the first time, that he is going to run for President in the forthcoming elections. Mr. Rayale is the Chairman of UDUB and his office tenure is to expire by next February. Municipal elections are scheduled to take place in Somaliland by next October, to be followed by legislative and Presidential elections.
At UDUB’s party meeting on Saturday, Mr. Rayale disclosed that he would not seek his tenure to be extended. The Somaliland constitution mandates the House of Elders (Guurti) to extend the current government’s term in office if scheduled elections cannot be held because of security conditions.
Mr. Rayale said he would contest the presidency through the ballot box.
“I have rejected the advice of many who wanted me to go for an extension because this wouldn’t work well for Somaliland at the domestic front as well as in the international arena,” President Rayale said while explaining why he preferred not to postpone the elections.
Mr. Rayale’s running mate in the forthcoming elections will be his current Vice President, Ahmed Yusuf Yassin.
Support of Key African Countries Essential
Hargeisa (SL Times): David Shinn, a former US diplomat who currently teaches at Georgetown University, suggested that Somaliland develop a strategy that seeks convincing a number of key African countries about its case. Mr. Shinn who was speaking to a group of Somaliland politicians, government officials and civic leaders at the Somaliland Academy For Peace and Development, last Wednesday evening, said the US and EU countries have been reluctant so far to be at the forefront to make a decision on the question of Somaliland’s recognition before the African Union takes the first step.
Mr. Shinn believes that the African Union Charter, which he said, places much stress on the maintenance of boundaries established during the colonial era, makes it difficult for non-African countries such as the US to come forward to Somaliland’s recognition.
Mr. Shinn told the audience that the lack of international publicity for the case of Somaliland jeopardizes its chances of recognition. He also admitted that unlike countries such as Afghanistan, Somaliland is not part of the issues being focused by the US government or media. According to Mr. Shinn, Somaliland needs a breakthrough in convincing a number of key African countries outside the Horn of Africa, such as South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, about its independence.
Mr. Shinn, a long time expert on Somali affairs, described the Horn of Africa as one of the most inter-related regions in Africa and the most conflicted area in the continent.
“The reasons for part of that inter-relation lie in sources of water in case of a pastoral society like Somaliland, ethnicity, scarce resources, boundaries and periodic droughts, ” Mr. Shinn explained, adding, “Of course Somaliland has experienced a great deal of that.”
Mr. Shinn said he has been impressed by the progress made in rehabilitation of Hargeisa since he was last here in 1996. David Shinn also spoke about his interest in the global fight against Aids, particularly in Africa. He said although the rates of the HIV/Aids infected in Somaliland are low when compared with African countries, the challenge is to keep the pandemic from spreading. A successful fight against HIV/Aids would give publicity to Somaliland, he added.
Mr. Shinn is associated with an Ethiopian NGO called “People to People” that assists Aids victims and campaigns against the spread of the disease.
Canadian MP Visiting Somaliland
Hargeisa (SL Times): Mr. Jim Karygiannis a Canadian Member of Parliament is in Somaliland on a private visit. He was received by President Rayale on Wednesday and is expected to meet with the Somaliland press today.
It is Mr. Karygiannis’s first trip to Africa and he is impressed by Somaliland’s peace and stability.
“As an individual, I will take your wishes back to our House of Commons in Canada whether for Somaliland independence or for more aid,” Mr. Karygiannis stated.
The Parliamentarian represents a constituency where a significant number of Canadians of Somaliland origin live.
Since arriving in Hargeisa last Tuesday, Mr. Karygiannis has met with leaders of the Somaliland Parliament.
The Canadian MP has shown a keen interest in the upcoming general elections in Somaliland.
Storms Head into Ethiopia And Somalia
By The Associated Press
Scattered showers and thunderstorms will head westward Tuesday through southern Ethiopia and Somalia into parts of Congo and Senegal.
The storms will move along the inter-tropical convergence zone and will be on the lighter side.
There will be plenty of sunshine in the north, with highs ranging form the low 30s (high 80s Fahrenheit) to the low 50s (low 120s Fahrenheit).
Southern Africa can expected sunny skies and temperatures below 30 (86 Fahrenheit).
On Wednesday, the continent will see a similar pattern, with sunshine in the north and south and showers in central Africa.
Columbus (Plain Dealer Bureau): A Somali man accused of having financial links to al-Qa’eda could resume his money-transfer business within a few weeks.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced it wants three businesses and three individuals taken off a United Nations terrorism sanctions list. One of the businesses includes Barakaat Enterprise Inc. of Columbus, owned by Hassan Hussein.
Federal agents cleaned out the 46-year-old man in a raid on Nov. 7 at his business and apartment, seizing records and furniture, including lawn chairs. Nothing has been returned.
Hussein's lawyer, Kevin O'Brien, said the government could return up to $170,000 in frozen assets within the next few weeks. O'Brien said there is no evidence to show that money transferred by Somalis in the United States to their families back home was siphoned off to Osama bin Laden's al-Qa’eda network through Hussein's business, known as a Hawala.
The individuals and businesses are being de-listed now because the owners swore they had no knowledge of ties to al-Qa’eda and they promised to sever any ties that do exist, said Treasury Undersecretary Jimmy Gurule. More than 240 people and organizations are still on the U.N. sanctions list.
"In this instance, the individuals and entities have demonstrated that they had no prior knowledge and have taken active steps to cut all ties with those entities funneling funds to terrorism," Gurule said in a statement. "This is how the process was designed to work."
O'Brien said: "I wish the government would just come out and say, 'We screwed up' and apologize. For 10 months we asked them to produce proof, and not once did they produce even a shred of information."
Hussein has struggled the past 10 months and received help from the Somali community. He is trying to support a wife and four children back home, O'Brien said. Soon he will open a new Hawala business.
"We want the client to get his money back, and then we will talk to the government about reparations," O'Brien said. The frozen assets will be returned to their owners, he said.
Hussein could not be reached for comment. His was one of four Hawalas operating in Columbus. The others were not raided. O'Brien believes Hussein had the bad luck to pick the name Barakaat, common in Somalia.
The Bush administration believes satellite operations like Hussein's and those in other states are affiliated with the Al-Barakaat financial network, which is based in the United Arab Emirates. The United States says at least $25 million annually has been funneled to al-Qa’eda through Al-Barakaat.
Treasury officials continue to assert that terrorists used the smaller operations like Hussein's to tap the fees Somalis pay to use the Hawalas, whether Hussein and other owners of the businesses knew it or not.
The other two businesses that will be removed from the sanctions list operate in Minneapolis, and the individuals include two Swedish citizens, the Treasury Department said.
Hussein was waiting to get his name cleared, said his former accountant, Shaykh Amin Abdur-Rashid. The action hurt the 25,000 to 30,000 Somalis who live in Columbus and who count on the money transfer system to help relatives at home, he said.
"He is vindicated. They never had any proof," Abdur-Rashid said. "This was overzealous intelligence. That is what we said all along in terms of the alleged link."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
New York, 22 August(UN News): Recent months have seen a worsening of the humanitarian situation in many parts of Somalia, with drought, conflict and displacement combining to affect some 700,000 people who live at, or below, subsistence level, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report released today at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Although the United Nations has been able to maintain a strong presence in northwestern Somalia, access to the northeastern, central and southern areas remains restricted because of the volatile security situation, the Secretary-General says in his report to the UN General Assembly, which looks at assistance for humanitarian relief and the economic and social rehabilitation of the country.
Mr. Annan notes that security-related programme disruptions directly cause greater suffering among the Somali people, and calls on the Somali leaders throughout the country to ensure the safety of UN personnel and staff from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the areas under their control, as well as to facilitate the provision of assistance to those most in need.
Despite these obstacles, the United Nations has continued to deliver humanitarian and development assistance in many areas of Somalia, and with more than 900 projects, the world body remains strongly committed to helping the country, the Secretary-General says.
"Unfortunately, the low donor response to the consolidated appeals in 2001 and 2002 prevents United Nations agencies from fully addressing the emergency needs in Somalia," Mr. Annan says, urging Member States to support humanitarian, recovery, and development activities in Somalia actively through the Consolidated Appeals Process and other mechanisms.
WAR OF WORDS
On the streets of Hargeysa, the capital of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland, the northern part of what used to be called Somalia, there are audio-and videotape shops on nearly every corner. Tapes of Somali oral poetry sell alongside videos of the latest Hollywood movies of Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Poetry is routinely broadcast on the radio and beamed in by satellite TV from neighboring Djibouti. And one of the hottest new cassettes on the Somali market when I arrived in the summer of 2000 was the wedding video of one of the country's leading poets, Mohammed Ibrahim Warsame, known universally among Somalis by his nickname, Hadrawi. Even the immigration officials who questioned me on my arrival brightened when I mentioned his name and they proceeded to tell me in detail about the poet's recent marriage.
That the wedding video of a poet-showing a traditional Somali ceremony with guests seated on straw mats, drinking camel's milk and eating dates, but filled, like most other wedding videos, with random footage of cars arriving and crowds milling around-should have commercial appeal is a perfect expression of Somalia in the new millennium, a strange hybrid of ancient nomadic culture and modern technology.
The last thing most people recall about Somalia are the images of United States marines being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu and the withdrawal of United Nations troops in 1993. But while Somalia no longer has a seat at the U.N., it has continued to be a part of the world of international media. There is no internationally recognized government, but there are five different phone companies competing ferociously for business and a cellular phone system that offers the lowest rates in Africa. Satellite dishes sit perched atop many of the homes and shops, where people watch European soccer and CNN. Indeed, in the absence of formal structures, with about a million Somali refugees scattered around the globe-from Stockholm and London to Toronto and Minneapolis-the Somalis have formed a kind of virtual nation, knitted together by a strange combination of electronic signals and traditional kinship relationships.
But all of these media are audiovisual. Somalia is still a largely oral society, most of its population made up of non-literate nomads. There are no publishing houses and the one real newspaper sells only two thousand copies a day. Indeed, there is a remarkably little writing to be seen by way of billboards and advertisements. Instead of written signs, many shops have elaborately painted storefronts illustrating the goods and services they offer, clearly meant for a public that is largely illiterate. An ad for a cellular phone company consists of a picture of a camel with a transmitting tower on its back, symbolic of Somalia's strange new hybrid culture. A sizable fraction of the city's population of 250, 000 live in makeshift huts in squatters' camps, but most of the squatters have tape recorders and radios. "If they had to choose between a tape recorder and a sack of rice, they'd take the tape recorder," one Somali told me.
The Somali language was not written down until the 1970s, and poetry-as in ancient Greece at the time of Homer-is one of the principal forms of mass communication as well as of entertainment. And in an oral society-even a postmodern oral society-the poet is king. In 1972, the dictator Mohammed Siad Barre chose the Latin alphabet as the official script for the Somali language and tried to use writing as a means of imposing the control of the state on the new Somali nation. But the inexpensive tape recorder arrived at about the same time and was, in many ways, better suited to transmitting Somalia's oral culture. Opposition to the Barre regime took the form of oral poetry dictated onto cassettes. Although Barre tried arresting Hadrawi and other poets, the cassettes continued to circulate. Indeed, many Somalis believe that the beginning of the end of the Barre regime was a "poetic duel," a chain of poems started by Hadrawi and another prominent Somali poet in 1979 that turned into a national debate about the government. When almost all the poems ended up criticizing the government and Barre proved powerless to stop the underground cassette traffic, it was clear that the government had lost its popular mandate.
A visit to Somalia seems like a trip to post-Gutenberg galaxy, to use Marshall McLuhan's phrase. In the early 1960s, McLuhan wrote with surprising clairvoyance of the "fragmenting" effects of electronic media and the coming of the "global village." New, decentralized interactive media, he prophesied, would allow people to communicate globally while remaining grouped in small clusters. Borderless electronic media would erode the power of the traditional nation-state and end the hegemony of the printed word (what he called the "Gutenberg galaxy"), bringing about the return of a largely oral culture. McLuhan's global village, in many ways, anticipated the Internet, but it also describes contemporary Somalia.
The recent introduction of writing into an oral society, and the added presence of electronic media, raises a host of fundamental questions. Is writing still a necessary precondition for creating a modern society? Or is it possible to leapfrog the five-thousand-year history of writing and move directly from preindustrial to postindustrial media? Will new media ultimately preserve or destroy Somalia's traditional culture? Or will writing and electronic media mingle in new and unexpected ways that allow Somalia both to retain aspects of its oral culture and to participate in the global economy?
After a few days in Hargeysa, I traveled with an interpreter to see Hadrawi at his family home in Burao, a medium-sized city about two hundred kilometers to the east. We drove across the northern plain of Somalia, located on the Horn of Africa, that part of the continent's eastern coast that reaches up toward the Red Sea and sits just across from Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. When we arrived, he was standing in front of the nomad hut he had built for his wedding several days earlier. He is a distinguished-looking man of fifty-seven with pensive dark brown eyes, a head of closely cropped gray-black hair, muttonchop sideburns, and a mustache with a light, stubbly beard. His skin is a reddish dark brown, but his straight nose and other features seem more Arab than African, reflecting the long-standing contacts between Somalia and the Middle East. He wore a brightly colored shaal, the wrap Somali men traditionally wear around their waist, together with a Western shirt. His dress, like so much else in Somalia today, is a hybrid of indigenous and foreign elements.
The wedding hut was a large, igloo-shaped structure, a rounded, domelike tent about ten feet high and fifteen or twenty feet in diameter, built with a frame of slender, flexible tree branches covered with animal skins and mats of straw artfully woven into elaborate geometric patterns. It stood somewhat incogruously inside the walled courtyard of a modern green concrete house. The nomad hut, however, was part of Hadrawi's current poetic strategy. "The purpose of the wedding for me was to show the Somali people that their forefathers left something for them, even if they don't follow that example-that they should not live in a vacuum and lose their identity," Hadrawi said.
Poets in Somalia enjoy a status that combines the role of prophet, intellectual, and rock star. Traditionally, Somali poets were believed to possess the gift of prophecy and many Somalis whom I met-those in the West as well as those living in Somalia-insisted that "things that Hadrawi wrote twenty years ago came true exactly." Hadrawi says that all he did was describe what seemed obvious at the time: that the corruption and repression of the Barre dictatorship would eventually bring about its downfall. Many of his poems-like those of several other leading Somali poets-are put to music and performed by popular singers, so that among Somalis he is as famous as a pop musician. Thus, when he decided to take a third wife (Somalia is a Muslim country and Islam allows men to take up to four wives), the wedding was an event of national importance. Thousands followed the wedding procession; the (late) president of the newly constituted Somaliland sent ten thousand dollars to help defray costs (which Hadrawi insisted he would give away to worthwhile social causes), and several cassette shops in Somalia sent cameramen to film the event.
Somalis have begun to imitate their relatives in Europe and North America, whose wedding videos they frequently see. So by allowing his wedding to be filmed, Hadrawi was trying to send a counter message encouraging them to resist the pressures of Westernization and return to tradition. "It will be seen in Toronto, Minneapolis, Norway-wherever there are Somalis!" he said with a certain amused pride. Hadrawi is not unaware of the contradictions of his situation, but in a technological world, Hadrawi feels he has no choice but to fight fire with fire.
Along with the ten thousand dollars, Somaliland's president, Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, sent a large number of security forces to the wedding. "There were rumors that it was not a wedding but a camouflage for a big political meeting and so there were a lot of security people present," Hadrawi explained with a laugh. "Poets in Somalia are not just admired, they are feared," said my interpreter, Saeed, "because if a poet writes a negative poem about you, people may repeat it for the rest of your days."
Inside the hut, we sat on straw mats and goatskins and the women who created the hut showed us how they outfitted it with the traditional hand-carved plates, bowls, and implements. Demonstrating how they would use a wooden jug to make butter form camel's milk, they started singing as they moved back and forth as if churning butter.
"Somalia is a nation of poetry. Even children of a few years old who herd sheep have songs they have created themselves," Hadrawi said. "If you are tending a herd or making handicrafts, poetry becomes your companion. If you ask for something, it is traditional to ask with poetry. People cannot do their jobs without poetry. At a certain point, poetry became a necessity, like food. It became the only thing that could move society."
In traditional Somali society, every clan had its own poet and the poet played a key role in both making war and making peace. "If the American presidential election had taken place in Somalia, Bush and Gore would be poets or they would have had poets on their staff. The campaign would have been conducted in verse," says John Johnson, an expert on Somali poetry who teaches at Indiana University in Bloomington, which has what may be the largest collection of Somali poetry in the world-almost all on tape.
Hadrawi explained that he grew up in a hut like this one, living the nomadic life, raising goats and camels. Then, at the age of ten, he was sent to stay with an uncle who lived in Yemen so that he might get a formal education. He learned Arabic fluently and some English and was thus exposed to writing, albeit in foreign languages. Educated Somalis who had been exposed to writing were experimenting at the time with different systems for writing down their language. Hadrawi used the Latin script to transcribe his work (as did some others), but since there was no agreement on standard spelling, each Somali writer was making up his own private orthography, which only he could understand without difficulty. Nonetheless, Hadrawi was among the first generation of Somali poets to compose poetry in written rather than oral form-something he said he regretted.
"I would love not to write my poems with pen and paper but to recite all by heart," he said. "Poetry was a repository of all knowledge. It was our dictionary, our encyclopedia. It told you everything you needed to live. In the past, there was actually a competition over how much knowledge a person could carry in him. In earlier times, if someone had had to refer to a book to recite a poem, people would have laughed at him. Our traditional poets used to recite poems without buying any notebooks. They used to recite hundreds of poems from their minds. Here," he said, touching his head. "The more dependent you become on pen and paper or on other technology, the more you lose your values."
Listening to him, I thought of one of Plato's dialogues in which Socrates argues that writing is a device not of memory but of forgetfulness. "I agree with Socrates!" Hadrawi said happily when I mentioned it. In many ways, modern Somalia is struggling with the same issues that ancient Greece faced in the fourth century B.C-the transition between oral and written society, between a clan society and a modern state governed by written law. But despite the prominence of poets in Somalia today, Hadrawi is pessimistic about the future, which he sees as increasingly dominated by Western media and technology. "My poetry is the expression of a world that is coming to an end," he said matter-of-factly.
The introduction of the written Somali language can be traced to a particular time and place. On the evening of October 20, 1972-the third anniversary of the coup d'etat that brought Mohammed Siad Barre and his socialist Supreme Revolutionary Council to power-most of the inhabitants of the city of Mogadishu were out in the streets lined up along the parade route. Suddenly, a helicopter appeared overhead, swooped down above the crowd, and began to drop thousands of brightly colored leaflets as if in a heavenly dispensation. People picked up the pamphlets and puzzled over them. They were not in a language that anyone in the crowd recognized: they were not in Arabic or Italian or English. "They began to fight with their tongues to read the new writing," the government English-language newspaper later reported. But gradually some people in the crowd began to realize, "This is Somali!"
At the same time, since only a small percentage of the crowd could read, the written message was accompanied by broadcasts of poetic songs on Radio Mogadishu proclaiming the new script in the homely metaphors of nomadic verse:
In the history of the world, our Language was taking no part;
But the sunrise appeared uncovering our Language from darkness;
The fence was cleared, so the livestock could graze.
Give me your pen, the words I write for you.
It is not a Foreign Language; the tongue does not slip.
Like milk, it can be swallowed smoothly.
Somalia is a semiarid land with a few natural resources, was spared colonization until late in the nineteenth century, when the Italians established themselves in the south and the British set up a colonial base in the north. The colonial administrations used their respective tongues as the languages of government, but because the colonization of Somalia was late and rather superficial, probably less than 10 percent of the population learned how to read and write English and Italian. When Somalia gained independence in 1960, the two former colonies agreed to merge, forming a single Somali nation, with its capital in the south at Mogadishu. Since the new Somali state was trying to combine the Old Italian and English administrations, the lack of a common language quickly became a major problem. All official documents had to be in both languages. The civil servants in the north tended to know English, while those in the south knew Italian, and very few knew both, creating a bureaucratic nightmare. Moreover, since few Somalis knew any foreign language, writing constituted a barrier that excluded the vast majority of citizens from access to government. The government agreed that it needed to create a script for the Somali language, but deciding which script to use became a paralyzing political issue.
Some pushed for the Arabic script, which some Somalis learn while attending Koranic schools as children. But Arabic, which does not have vowel symbols, is not well suited to the Somali language, which has twenty-two different vowel sounds, more vowels than consonants. The Latin alphabet appeared a more practical solution: its five vowels could be used in different combinations to approximate the intonations of Somali speech. Moreover, educated Somalis who had studied English or Italian already knew Latin letters and the government could continue using its store of European typewriters. But the alphabet faced stiff political opposition. The Muslim sheiks coined a clever slogan, "Laatiin, Laa Diin," playing on the similarity between Latin and the Somali word for "godless." Somali nationalists also regarded the Latin script as a residue of the country's colonial domination. At one point, when the government put up a few street signs in Somali with the Latin alphabet, a riot ensued. Some nationalists insisted that to be truly independent, Somalia must have its own indigenous alphabet, and several Somali intellectuals created their own sets of symbols, which they proposed as alternative scripts. One contender even went to the trouble and expense of having several typewriters custom made to show that his script could be adapted to modern technology. (This script had a problem, too: some characters were composed from right to left, others from left to right, making rapid cursive writing difficult.) Soon there were twenty-three candidates competing to become the national script. But many of the indigenous scripts ran afoul of clan politics: any Somali script came to be associated with the clan of its inventor and was therefore regarded with suspicion by the other clans, which then backed the alphabetic systems generated by their own clansmen. Faced with this babel of scripts and a set of thorny political problems, the early independent governments chose the path of least resistance: doing nothing.
[To be continued…………]
Ethiopia's Khat Dilemma
By Nita Bhalla
Khat is a major agricultural crop. Yet many some say it is addictive, harmful to health and a threat to young people and the smooth working of the economy.
In the Hararge region of Ethiopia it is hard to avoid the impact of the stimulant leaf.
The first thing that strikes you in the main market in Awadai is the deafening noise.
The market square is a scene of total chaos as you make your way through bustling crowds preoccupied with the business of bartering for a prized commodity - the green leafed plant khat.
Awadai market is an international market for khat. Over 25,000 kg pass through it daily.
The buyers and sellers take their jobs seriously, shouting to one another in the local dialect of Afaan Oromo. They gesture excitedly as they trade hundreds of dollars daily for the khat.
Ahmedin Muktar has been a khat trader for over a decade.
"I buy khat from the local farmers here in Awadai, and sell more than 200 kg every day. I send it to other areas in Ethiopia, like Addis Ababa and the Somali region and I also export it overseas," he says. "Khat is very good for Hararge. It is the backbone of the economy.
"If you compare khat farmers with other farmers, you will see their standard of living is so much better. They have good houses and some even have cars - how many farmers do you know that have cars?" he asks.
Khat is chewed for hours and users say it "elevates your mood and stimulates your mind".
Ethiopia's Hararge region is the main area for cultivation of the crop. Acres and acres of khat farms can be seen far into the distance.
In every town, people wile away their spare time chewing the stimulant leaf. It is part of the culture of Hararge.
"Khat is a cash crop which really benefits the khat growers, traders and the government.
"In 1999-2000, Ethiopia earned approximately $60 million from khat cultivation," according to Dechassa Lemessa of the UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (UNEUE).
The wood of the plant is used for fuel and, because of its resistance to termites, is used to make and fences.
Ali Mohammed has been growing khat for five years.
"I used to grow maize, sorghum and teff (a cereal crop), but these crops are difficult to grow as they require a lot of rains and a lot of attention," he says. "Khat requires little water or cultivation. For poor people like me, if you chew it, then you don't feel hungry and this is good if you don't have enough food to feed yourself," he explains.
Khat cultivation is expanding at an amazing rate as farmers realise its earning potential.
It is exported to Djibouti, Somalia, Yemen and Britain. Khat has become Ethiopia's biggest export, second only to coffee.
But despite the cash earnings and the tradition of khat growing and use among the Hararge people, Ethiopia's regional government does not encourage it.
"It is addictive and this has a negative impact on our communities. People forget about their work commitments and spend hours chewing," according to Ato Mustafa from East Hararge Zone Administration.
Like most of his colleagues, Ato Mustafa chews khat himself.
"We have to change our culture and find an alternative cash crop," he says.
Non-users condemn chewing, but the number of users is increasing, particularly among the youth.
In urban areas, the use of khat combined with alcohol, is having an adverse effect on family life.
Many students and lecturers at schools and colleges chew khat because they say it increases their concentration.
But in the Hararge, Somali and Afar regions, business punctuality is a frequent problem, as the time after lunch is usually spent chewing khat.
Khat is banned in the United States and Canada, but Ethiopia's central government has no clear policy on the stimulant.
The issue is left for regional governments to decide.
Even in regions like Tigray, where the plant has been banned, cultivation and usage continues and attempts to replace khat with cash crops like coffee have failed.
Experts agree that more research needs to be done before rash decisions are made and livelihoods ruined.
They say that the best knowledge comes from Ethiopia's khat farmers and advise that the government work more closely with them to decide whether khat really is good for Ethiopia's long-term development.