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Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment

Drug Crops and Food Security: The Effects of Khat on Lives and Livelihoods in Northern Madagascar

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Abstract

Khat is a bushy plant whose leaves are chewed for their stimulant effect. Although khat has been a boon to the local economy, a suspected disadvantage is that there has been a decrease of land dedicated to rice and vegetable crops. Concerns about khat stem from genuine issues of food security but also from a moral panic targeted at this recreational drug crop. The major finding is that a decrease in vegetable production has not been primarily caused by khat but instead by a decline in the market for vegetables and decayed local infrastructure supporting vegetable production and transport. We also found that most farmers prefer to grow food crops alongside their khat, and many grow khat on marginal lands. Furthermore, khat helps many individual farmers increase food security because of the income it provides. The general significance is to point out that drug crops have a unique place in discussions of food security because of both the high amount that buyers are willing to pay and because of public condemnation of recreational drugs.

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