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The Education of Children Entangled in Khat Trade in Ethiopia: The Case of Two Khat Market Centers Forum for Social Studies (FSS) Addis Ababa ii

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The Education of Children Entangled in
Khat Trade in Ethiopia: The Case of Two
Khat Market Centers
Girma Negash
Forum for Social Studies (FSS)
Addis Ababa
ii
© 2017 Forum for Social Studies (FSS)
All rights reserved.
Printed in Addis Ababa
FSS Monograph No. 13
ISBN: 978-99944-50-65-7
Forum for Social Studies (FSS)
P.O. Box 25864 code 1000
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Email: fss@ethionet.et
Web: www.fssethiopia.org.et
This Monograph has been published with the nancial support of the Civil
Societies Support Program (CSSP). The contents of the Monograph are the sole
responsibilities of the author and can under no circumstances be regarded as
reecting the position of the CSSP or the FSS.
iii
Contents
Acknowledgement .......................................................................................................... v
List of Tables ...................................................................................................................vi
List of Figures ................................................................................................................. vi
Preface ............................................................................................................................vii
1 Introduction ............................................................................................................ 1
1.1 Research Objectives .......................................................................................... 3
1.2 Methods and Approaches ................................................................................. 5
1.2.1 Research Design ............................................................................................ 5
1.2.2 Target Population and Participants ................................................................ 5
1.2.3 Sample and Sampling Procedure: Selecting Participants ..............................6
1.2.4 Data Collection Instruments ........................................................................... 7
1.2.5 Data Collection Procedure .............................................................................8
1.3 Description of the Study Sites ...........................................................................8
1.3.1 Chuko Town and the Tafara Market ..............................................................8
1.3.2 Aweday and its Magala Jima ....................................................................... 10
2 Theoretical Considerations and Legal Perspectives ......................................... 13
2.1 Is “Work Free Childhood” Feasible in Africa? ................................................13
2.2 Working Children in Ethiopia: An Inquiry into the Socio-legal Landscape ....15
3 The Interface between Children’s Involvement in Khat Trading Activities and
their Education ..................................................................................................... 21
3.1 The Age Prole of Child Workers in the Khat Industry ..................................21
3.2 The Work Context for Children in the Khat Industry ...................................... 24
3.3 Migrant Children: Les Misérables of the Khat Industry .................................28
3.4 Gender .............................................................................................................32
iv
3.5 Motivational Factors: Why do Children Work in the Khat Industry? .............34
3.6 Working in the Khat Industry and its Impact on the Child’s Education ..........36
3.7 Threats to the Physical and Mental Well-being of the Child Worker .............. 44
4 Conclusion and Recommendations ..................................................................... 49
4.1 Conclusion .......................................................................................................49
4.2 Recommendations: Imagining a Better Future ................................................51
4.3 Sensitization and Awareness Creation .............................................................52
4.3.1 Regulatory Measures .................................................................................... 53
References ...................................................................................................................... 55
v
Acknowledgement
I am grateful to Forum for Social Studies (FSS) and the funding agency, Civil
Society Support Program (CSSP), for providing the necessary nancial assistance
and overall facilitation of the project. I am very much indebted to the entire FSS
staff who proved to be supportive throughout this undertaking and especially
Dr. Asnake Kefale, Adjunct Researcher at FSS, for his thorough review of the
draft monograph and Dr. Zerihun Mohammed for his constant feedback to my
thoughts and writing. My appreciation knows no bounds.
I would also like to extend my gratitude to Wondo Genet Woreda and Aweday
City Administration ofcials, particularly Ato Negatu Girma and Ato Nuredin
Amin respectively, for rendering invaluable support in identifying local contacts,
identifying knowledgeable informants and facilitating the whole research
endeavor during my eld work in their respective Woreda.
I am very much indebted to my informants and participants of the research
namely; students, teachers, school-directors, khat traders, boys working in the
khat industry, parents, and civil servants working in the various Woreda- level
ofces for their time and kind collaboration in the process of data collection. My
brief contact and cordial relations with them helped me to learn a lot about their
daily lives and the nuances of the khat business.
My special thanks go to Ato Merkeb Duko who showed personal interest in taking
some priceless camera shots of long queues of young boys engaged in their daily
routine of carrying khat bundles to the khat assembling station at Chuko town,
Wondo Genet. Those pictures alone speak a lot about the working and living
conditions of those boys.
vi
List of Tables
Table 1: Age range of children working in the khat industry................................... 22
Table 2: Age distribution of the working children ................................................... 22
Table 3: Resident and Migrant status of the sample population in Wondo Genet ... 24
Table 4: Working hours ............................................................................................ 41
Table 5: The rate of absenteeism among those combining work and schooling ...... 44
Table 6: Late - coming ............................................................................................. 45
Table 7: Leaving school earl y before end of classes ............................................... 46
List of Figures
Fig. 1: Percentage of age distribution of the working children by research site ...... 23
Fig. 2: Field interview with children engaged in khat labor in Chuko town .... 29
Fig 3: ‘Migrant’ children and boys waiting for the khat job in Chuko town .... 29
Fig 4: Very young children in khat market in Chuko town ............................... 30
Fig. 5: Young boys working in khat ‘workshops in Chuko town ..................... 30
Fig. 6: Daily income of ‘migrant’ and resident child workers in the khat
‘industry’ ............................................................................................. 32
Fig. 7: Young boys carrying heavy load of khat to the market (Chuko town) ... 33
Fig. 8: Very young children are also engaged in carrying khat.......................... 33
Fig. 9: ‘Rush hour’ in the Tafara khat market, Chuko town ............................. 34
Fig.10: Some children engaged in khat job while others go to school (Chuko
town) .................................................................................................. 34
Fig. 11: Reasons for children’s participation in khat trading activities. ........... 38
vii
Preface
This study primarily set out to investigate the role of children in khat trading
activities in the two well-known khat marketing centers, Chuko- Wondo Genet
and Aweday, in southern and eastern Ethiopia respectively. My knowledge about
the khat value chain and basic operational principles of khat trade in southern
Ethiopia goes back to the years 2010 -2014 while I was on a eld research in
northern Sidama for a PhD dissertation which I nalized and submitted to the
Department of History, Addis Ababa University, in 2014.
As a researcher traversing through the khat producing countryside of one of the
major zones of production for more than half a decade gave me the opportunity
to be in constant contact with farmers and traders whose lives are intimately
connected with khat, and whose hospitalities and insights I lived to appreciate
to this day. Then, I observed that some levels of the khat value chain have been
using the labor of child workers. Nevertheless, such an issue was peripheral to
the objective of my dissertation which was aimed at reconstructing the history
of economic change in Northern Sidama, located at the northern fringes of the
Southern Nations Nationalities Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) that spans a period of
over half a century since the 1950s.
I had to keep in heart the crude information about the role of children in khat
trading activities which was later farther invigorated with the curiosity to know
what the situation looks like in the other leading khat marketing center of the
nation- Aweday- in Eastern Hararge, until an opportune moment comes. No other
opportune moment could be expected than the year 2015 when Forum for Social
Studies (FSS) with the funding secured from Civil Society Support Program
(CSSP) envisaged a research project entitled The “Impact of khat on Children’s
Education: A comparative Study of khat Producing and Marketing Centers
in Southern and Eastern Ethiopia” to which I was designated as a Principal
Researcher.
This monograph is the product of that long journey from the inception of the
research project all the way through the series of eld works and the workshops
from which valuable feedbacks have been obtained. It is divided into four
viii
chapters. The rst chapter is devoted to the background, objectives, methodology
and a description of selected study sites. The second chapter is a discussion about
theoretical and legal issues pertinent to child labor and employment of children
in the context of Africa and Ethiopia. The third chapter presents the main ndings
of the study chiey: whether or not children participate in the khat marketing
activities, the age prole of those children involved in khat marketing activities,
a survey of the types of jobs those children are engaged in and the work context,
a discussion about the working and living conditions of the two categories of
children of the khat industry namely the ‘residents’ ‘ and ‘migrants’, the impact
of involvement in activities related to khat marketing on the education of those
children who combine schooling and work, and an assessment of possible
physical and mental hazards on the child worker. The fourth and nal chapter
provides important concluding remarks as well as recommendations.
I hope and expect this study will provide some clarity and insight about the way
khat is being produced and marketed in the major zones of production. It certainly
would shade some light on the complexities of the khat marketing systems at
work in those khat marketing and assembling centers which I explored in this
work. It will also lift the fog of uncertainties that enshrouded our knowledge and
understanding of khat related issues such as the role of children and their rights
in particular. What I wish urgently and seriously is that this work may bring the
issue of child workers engaged in khat trading activities, especially the plight of
those school - aged working children whom I called ‘migrants’ to come to the
center stage in any event of policy formulation that governs the marketing and
consumption of khat.
Girma Negash
Addis Abeba
August 2017
1 Introduction
Khat (catha edulis) is an evergreen shrub widely grown and consumed in Ethiopia
from as far back as the 14th century, if not earlier. It is documented in the royal
chronicle of Amda Seyon (1314-1344 A.D.) that the ruler of the Sultanate of
Ifat, Sabradin, had boastfully warned that he will plant khat trees at the royal
capital of the king. Yemen, in the Arabian Peninsula, is the other country whose
name is widely mentioned as a major producer and consumer (Kennedy, 1987:
61; Ezekiel, 2004: 3). Khat is also known by several other names such as Chat,
Qat, Kat, Quat and Mirra (Kenya). Currently, khat cultivation and consumption
are no longer conned to Ethiopia and Yemen. They have spread to other parts
of Eastern Africa (including Kenya, Uganda and Malawi), and Southern Africa
(Zimbabwe, South Africa, Madagascar, Zambia). In the past few decades the
consumption of khat has gone global. Far off lands, as far east as Australia and
New Zealand, as far west as the United States of America, and many countries in
Europe have khat chewing communities that comprised of both immigrants and a
small number of locals (Carrier N., 2007:12;Anderson et al.,2007:1).
The earliest known scientic analysis of khat varieties and species was made by
a Swedish botanist Peter Forsskal in his work Flora-Aegypto-Arabica in 1975,
hence the reference Catha edulis Forsskal (Kennedy, 1987:177; Ezekiel, 2004:
14). Studies on the pharmacology of khat reveal that the leaves of this plant contain
psychoactive substances capable of stimulating the central nervous system and
creating temporary euphoria. Among others, the most active ingredients in khat
are the alkaloids cathinone and cathine (also known as norpseudoephedrine)
and norephedrine (Kalix,1992; Al-hebshi and Skaug, 2005; WHO 34th Report,
2006:10). In spite of the range of psychological, physiological and economic
adverse effects that khat consumption supposedly1 causes, different social groups
chew khat leaves and its tender twigs for various reasons. Some chew khat for
pleasure and recreation, some to get ‘high’ or stimulated. Some others claim that
khat has the potency to repel sleep and fatigue. Others believe that it is an herbal
medicine against common cold, dysentery and a range of other diseases. In some
Ethiopian cultures khat plays an important role in social events such as weddings,
1 “Supposedly” because, although signicant progress has been made, khat research at present is
still at its infancy and ndings about its health effects are inconsistent and less conclusive. For
some, even those reported as khat-caused health problems are “exaggerated.” See (Kennedy, 1987:
231; Ezekiel, 2008: 787-788).
Girma Negash
2
funerals, and reception of guests. Some Muslims also believe that they chew khat
for a religious purpose (Anderson et al.,2007:3-5; Ezekiel,2004:11).
Khat got international attention since the second half of the 20th century.
In 1964, the Economic and Social Council of the UN passed a resolution
(XXXVII/1964/1025) that pronounced khat chewing is a cause of “grave social
problems.” However, khat was not included in the list of “controlled” substances,
in the 2003 report led by WHO Expert Committee. In its 34th report, the WHO
Expert Committee on Drug Dependence reviewed available data on khat and
decided that it should not be a controlled substance. Despite recognizing the
alleged social and health problems that excessive use of khat might cause, the
Committee did not recommend the scheduling of khat. The Committee rather
made a suggestion that those adverse effects could be overcome through educative
campaigns (WHO 34th Report, 2006:11).
There is inconsistency in the legal status of khat in different countries. Khat use is
legal in Yemen, Kenya, and Uganda. Only recently European policy towards khat
showed a major shift. For example, the Netherlands, which was a distribution
center for suppliers from other European countries such as Germany and Sweden,
introduced legislation that banned the trade and possession of khat in January
2012. Heathrow, the main British airport, had been a hub for redistribution in
Europe until a new law that has banned khat came into force in June 2014. Khat
is illegal and banned in Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Canada, Finland, France, Jordan
and Tanzania. In the USA, it is a “controlled” substance, the consumption of
which is illegal.
In Ethiopia, as it stands today, there is no national policy regarding khat production
and use. In recent years, khat cultivation has been expanding aggressively to
regions formerly known for their cereal and coffee production. Even more so,
the habit of khat chewing is expanding at an alarming rate among different social
groups irrespective of gender, age, religion and ethnic background. An issue
of concern to all has become the fact that young college students, high school
students and unemployed youth in and around urban areas are being increasingly
attracted to the habit of khat chewing (Girma, 2007 E.C).
On the other hand, khat has already assumed the position of becoming one of the
leading foreign currency earners for the country. The revenue regional and federal
governments are generating from khat trade, and employment opportunities the
3
khat industry has created are so vivid and self-evident that they can hardly be
underestimated. Few will also dispute the economic benets that khat farming has
brought to farmers. For example, in Hararge, the high cash return has increased
the income of farming communities, which has allowed them to satisfy their basic
needs with much more ease (Ezekiel, 2008; Kingele, 1998).
Owing to the burgeoning demand from the national and international markets
over the past decades, khat production and trade has evolved tremendously with
conspicuous changes on techniques of production and marketing all along the
value chain from the farm gate to the various centers of distribution. Year after year
more and more farmlands have been allocated for khat agriculture; indigenous
technologies were improvised with the evident effect of maximized yield. The
system of khat marketing, especially the way the commodity has been mobilized,
assembled, and transported over the last several decades, has also evolved
through time in such a way that it has adopted some of the basic principles that
typify a modern commercial undertaking. Ultimately khat production and trade
has grown to assume a cash crop proportion in most of the zones of production
(Girma, 2014).
1.1 Research Objectives
In this study, an attempt has been made to examine the causes and consequences
of the involvement and active participation of young people in khat marketing
and trade at different stages of the khat value chain. Among the range of other
consequences, arguably the most undesired could be the one unwittingly ruining
the education and overall intellectual development of those children who are
directly participating in khat trading activities. Lured by ‘easy money’, a good
part of those working-children are believed to have given up school because
they left their parents and villages in pursuit of the presumed fortune believed
to exist at one or the other khat marketing centers. A few others had to dropout
from school unable to continue as ‘part-time students’ under the unbearable
circumstances and working environment in the khat industry. A general trend
observed among those school-age children working in the khat industry is the
propensity of missing classes and schooldays as a whole. Even those who have
managed to go to school and attend classes are under enormous pressure and
challenges in pursuing their education effectively.
Girma Negash
4
Moreover, it is highly likely that these young workers who are active participants
in the trading and marketing of khat could be subjected to some of the
concomitant effects, or “occupational hazards,” so to speak, caused by the work
of which they are an integral part. One such hazard is the habit of regular khat
chewing and “dependence” on khat at a tender age. Once again, one of the most
obvious adverse effects of any “addiction”/ “dependence” is the education of
the person involved. What have been widely articulated so far in the literature
are the indirect consequences of “addiction”/ “dependence” on children born
from “addicted” parents and the family at large (Yeshigeta & Abraham, 2004:
180;Beckerleg,2006:233; Green, 1999: 41). On the other hand, evidence from
some recent studies shows that children who are in their teens are active participants
in khat trading activities in some of the known production zones (Girma 2014).
A possible scenario that can be drawn from such an active involvement would be
that those children might well pick up a khat chewing habit.
On account of the fact that the target population of this study are children in their
school- age, the central issue would be addressing the impact of their involvement
in the khat industry on their education and academic performance. It is therefore
envisaged to identify the nature and magnitude of those adverse effects caused
by involvement in khat trade and to come up with insights that would inform
future policy. It is also hoped that ndings from this research would shed more
light on the issue and help to develop pathways for intervention by governmental
agencies and non-governmental actors, including Civil Society Organizations
(CSOs), community based organizations, parents and the community at large.
The research has the following specic objectives:
• identify the prominent factors behind children’s involvement in
khat trading activities;
• identify how involvement in the khat business adversely affects the
education of children and / or vulnerable youth in the zones of khat
production;
• investigate how working in the khat industry in the selected research
sites and their environs affect children’s school enrollment, attrition,
effectiveness, and overall engagement ;
• assess the level of intervention so far, if there is any, to contain the
problem by governmental and non-governmental actors;
5
• Investigate the existing legal framework to protect the right of the
working children and its effectiveness to address the problem; and
• Identify pathways (policy reforms) and options for intervention by
governmental and non-governmental CSOs to mitigate the problem
and address the needs of child.
1.2 Methods and Approaches
1.2.1 Research Design
The research design I have employed in this study is what has come to be known
as the mixed method. This is a relatively recent approach that involves collecting,
combining and analyzing both forms of data, the qualitative and quantitative, in
just one single study (Johnson et al., 2007,119). One of the rationales for using
this approach is the fact that the use of multiple data sources would broaden the
chance of triangulation of data. It also helps to neutralize some of the limitations
inherent to the two classical methods of inquiry. The mixed method approach
gives the opportunity to employ data garnered from one particular source to
inform, complement, or compensate the other (Creswell, 2003: 15).
The attempt to understand experiences, perspectives and thoughts of participants
through the qualitative methods of inquiry was best articulated and triangulated
using quantitative data. In my case, the fact that both forms of data have been
collected simultaneously the “concurrent procedure” of data analysis was
adopted as an ideal procedure for integrating information from both methods for
interpretation and analysis. Practically, the quantitative data have been used as an
indicator of trends and patterns.
1.2.2 Target Population and Participants
The target population of this study are children working in the khat industry,
in different capacities, at two well-known khat marketing centers, Aweday and
Wondo Genet in eastern and southern Ethiopia respectively. The participants of
this study are young workers taking part in the complex trading activities at the
different stages of the khat value chain. Some of these children work at the farm
gates, some at market places and some in the khat workshops.” The word child
used in this study, unless expressed otherwise, refers to children below the age of
Girma Negash
6
18 in line with the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Art. 2) which
denes a child as “every human being below the age of 18 years.”
Preliminary observations show that the target group of this study are of two
major groups. The rst group consists of local boys who are still living with
their parents but deeply involved in the process of khat marketing. In this study,
they are referred to as “residents.” The other group of the study population are
those who came from other nearby Warada2 and Peasant Associations seeking
employment in the above- mentioned khat markets. These ones I called, for lack
of a better term, ‘migrants’. What the two groups have in common is that both
are school-age children who are supposed to spend much of their time in schools,
and at the same time involved in activities related to khat trade. The difference
between the two is that members of the rst group are living with their parents
with some degree of family control and /or support, while the latter have none of
these privileges.
1.2.3 Sample and Sampling Procedure: Selecting Participants
The situation on the ground made it difcult to have an accurate estimate of the
number of child workers in the two study sites. Lack of any ofcial, or unofcial,
list of children working in the khat industry and the difculty of getting access
to them seriously hampered the effort to have a sampling frame that would allow
to get the subset of the larger population under study. For this reason, I have
adopted the purposive sampling technique. Accordingly, selection of participants
for questionnaires and interviews was made through contacting available
members of the target group.
Therefore, all the participants who lled the questionnaires for the survey were
boys under the age of 18 who are workers in the khat industry at different capacities.
Yet, the major challenge remained to be the creation of sampling population.
However, the validity of the sample was increased by trying to approximate
random selection, and by reducing as many sources of bias as possible. In
consultation with local ofcials and teachers, we have identied schools in which
most members of the target population are enrolled. In Chuko town, there are
two high schools and one elementary and junior high school, named, Wondo
Genet Secondary and Preparatory School, and Wondo Genet Secondary School;
2 e lowest-level administrative unit in Ethiopia since the imperial period which is
roughly equivalent to a sub- district.
7
and one Chuko Elementary and Junior High School. Local ofcials and teachers
estimated that there would be about 60 students who work in the khat industry in
each of the three schools I have chosen 20 participants from each school, which
would make a total of sixty student-khat workers to represent the group whom I
called “residents.”
In Aweday too, schools have been my focal areas for data collection. I have used
three schools: one high school (Aweday Preparatory and Secondary School)
and two elementary schools namely; Aweday Elementary School and Fendisha
Elementary School where the majority of the young boys working in the khat
industry are enrolled and attend classes. Here, I had to use availability sampling
and a total of 30 students who are all residents and school-goers were selected to
ll the questionnaire.
As far as the ‘migrants’ are concerned, I have to rely on availability sampling
by using children of this category with whom I managed to get in touch. They
might be many in number but they are disinterested and resistant meeting
unknown people for fear of being sent home hence elude any contact with others.
I, however, managed to get the participation of 20 children of this group. Nine
other ‘migrants’ have also lled the questionnaire because, although they are
‘migrants’, they are still able to pursue their education defying all the challenges.
This raised the total number of ‘migrants’ to 29.
1.2.4 Data Collection Instruments
The most outstanding qualitative data gathering instruments used to generate data
for this research were in-depth interviews and focus group discussions (FGD).
I have engaged as many children, both ‘migrants’ and residents, as possible.
Interviews and discussions with teachers, parents, khat traders and local authorities
helped me to establish contact with groups who have a very keen concern with
the subject of study. Observation and secondary sources of data from schools,
such as rosters, attendance sheet and report cards were other means of extracting
qualitative data. The quantitative data used in this research was extracted through
a questionnaire lled by a sample population of 90 participants selected in the
two study sites. Respondents who lled the questionnaire in Wondo Genet
comprise of both “resident” school-going children and ‘migrants’. In Aweday,
however, all the respondents are “resident” school-going children working in the
Girma Negash
8
khat industry. The data collected through the various tools of data gathering has
been transcribed and qualitatively analyzed using a thematic approach.
1.2.5 Data Collection Procedure
All types of empirical data for this research have been collected through two-
rounds of eldwork in the two selected study sites. The rst round eldwork
was conducted from November 9 - December 6, 2015 in Chuko town (the
administrative headquarter of Wondo Genet Warada on the northern fringes of
Sidama Zone) where the Tafara khat market is situated. The data collection process
here was more intense and rigorous than anticipated earlier because of the fact
that 60 out of the total of 90 questionnaires for the survey had to be lled by study
participants here. Secondly, I considered the presence of ‘migrant’ child workers
in large numbers, more visible as a separate group, engaged in distinctly known
work types as an opportunity to make an exhaustive investigation of their role
in the khat industry and their working and living conditions. The second round
eldwork was conducted in the other study site, the town of Aweday, in Eastern
Hararge, from January 5- 18, 2016. Here, although young persons both from
Aweday and those who came from other areas are found to be active participants
in the process of khat marketing, the ‘migrants’ do not make up a substantively
distinct group engaged exclusively in khat trading activities. Their jobs are not
limited to khat trade and some of them, even though they are ‘migrants’ they may
not come to the Magala Jimaa as long as they get something to do for a living
outside the khat market. Therefore, not withstanding their presence in the town,
it was not easy to identify and contact them as a separate group so as to ll the
questionnaire. Therefore, the collection of primary data through questionnaires
and in-depth interviews was conducted in the schools mentioned above by
approaching resident school-going boys working at the Magala Jimaa.
1.3 Description of the Study Sites
1.3.1 Chuko Town and the Tafara Market
The Tafara market is the largest khat market in northern Sidama. Arguably, along
with Aweday in East Hararge, it is one of the two largest khat assembling centers
in the entire country. This southern khat marketing center is found in Chuko
town, formerly known as Basha, located 23.5 kilometers to the northeast of the
town of Hawaasa, and 272 kilometers to the south of Addis Ababa. Following
the administrative restructuring adopted in 2005, the town of Chuko became
9
the administrative capital of Wondo Genet Warada in Sidama Zone. It was then
Basha town was renamed Chuko.3
As regards to its present size and economic importance, Chuko town owes much
to khat trade. Even if khat trade was not the reason for the birth of the town, it is
the reason behind its present status and economic signicance. A keen observer
some three decades ago has the following to say regarding the impact of khat
trade on the future of the town; “This khat town grew from a small village in
the late 1980s …when it became the major khat wholesale market in Wondo
Genet” (Gessesse, 2007: 13). The nearly threefold dramatic rise of the population
of Chuko from 7000 in the late 1980s to 18,467 (2007 Population and Housing
Census of Ethiopia: Statistical Report for SNNPR: 1132, Table 1A), in 2007 is an
important indicator about the signicance of the thriving khat trade to the town.
A fateful development in the transformation of Chuko into a town of conspicuous
size was the fast growing khat trade in northern Sidama, especially since the late
1980s. The historic town of Kella, some six kilometers to the north of the then
Basha, preceded the town of Basha as a khat trading center. Kella, situated on
a long-distance trade route at about the turn of the 20thcentury, happened to be
a major customs gate for Dajjazmach Balcha4 from about the 1890s hence the
name Kella which means customs post. Various other locations within the town
of Basha as it was known in those days served as centers of khat transaction
up until the closing years of the 1980s. The year 1988 was a landmark in the
emergence of the Tafara khat market in this same town.
The Tafara market is situated some 600 meters from the main road that bisects
the town of Chuko. It is only 7-8 minutes walking distance to the east of the road.
Gauged by all standards, chiey by the quantity of the khat daily transported
out of Tafara, it stands as the largest khat market in southern Ethiopia. No other
khat market in southern Ethiopia is ever known to deliver ten fully- loaded Isuzu
trucks5 on average every day. If Aweday, as described by the authors of The Khat
Controversy, is “…the hub for the eastern Ethiopian khat trade,” (Anderson et al.,
3 For other details of origin and historical evolution of Basha town, see Girma Negash (2014)
“Agriculture and Trade in Northern Sidama Since 1950: A History.” (PhD Dissertation, Department
of History, AAU.)
4 The governor of the former Sidamo Governorate - General, later Province, since 1896 for a total
of over twenty- seven years divided into three separate blocks with some interruption between each
of them.
5 Each Isuzu truck roughly carries up to 3,000 Kilograms of khat at once.
Girma Negash
10
2007: 45) so is Tafara for the khat trade in southern Ethiopia without any other
serious contender.
Overlooking the Tafara market, there is a small hill- top to the north-west, which
recently has undergone an exemplary scheme of aforestation. Of a very high
practical value is the great number of small houses (which I call “khat workshops”)
that have proliferated surrounding the market, built by private individuals. They
are rented to khat traders who need them to do all the packaging of khat before its
departure to different destinations. In front of the main gate, are several shops and
tearooms providing a wide range of services to customers frequenting the market.
A very interesting tradition observed by all frequenting the Tafara market was the
tradition of “Whistle Blowing,” that takes place every day at 6:00 p.m., to mark
the ofcial beginning of market operation at Tafara.6
1.3.2 Aweday and its Magala Jimaa
The other major khat assembling center in Ethiopia to which I made an earlier
reference citing the The Khat Controversy (2007) is the Magala Jimaa (the khat
market) of the town of Aweday, in Eastern Hararge, Oromia Regional State.
Aweday and its khat market which is locally known as Magala Jimaa are swarmed
by multitudes of khat traders and suppliers every day from mid-day all the way
through to the next morning.
Informants recall that initially khat trade in Aweday was a disorganized roadside
business without a specic center at a specic place. It was not a full-time
occupation of professional traders exclusively engaged in khat trade. It was the
establishment of the Magala Jimaa, in 1973, with stalls for the marketeers to
6 During the span of time between my two eldworks in the region from January 2012 to December
2015, the Tafara market, for good or bad, has undergone signicant transformation both in terms
of physical appearance and mode of transaction.. Along with the establishment of the “Wondo
Genet khat Trading Share Company in 2013, a new arrangement was introduced that abolished the
key role of individual entrepreneurs locally known as Kontractors.” These were handful of men
with better capital in charge of transporting khat bought from Tafara market to various destinations
paying all dues at customs posts along the way in return for collecting what was due to them from
khat traders at the receiving end. At present, with a renovation project well underway, the Tafara
market has been totally demolished. Its former stalls have been totally cleared leaving the place
for concrete-walled spacious rooms still under construction. Gone with the good old days was the
tradition of “whistle blowing.” As a result of the changes on the khat market “whistle blowing”
is no longer practiced to mark the beginning of market operations, as I have observed the market
scene and operation once again in December 2015.
11
stay at and make price negotiations that brought some degree of order to khat
trade. Although the Magala Jimaa is the epicenter of Aweday’s khat business,
nowadays khat trading activities have already overtaken the entire town and no
part of the town is left intact. This may be the reason why many people refer to
Aweday itself as just a khat market rather than a town in its own right.
Aweday is located about 12 kilometers to the south-west of the historic town of
Harar, and 370 kilometers to the east of Addis Ababa. It is located at 2036 meters
above sea level and has a Woinadega climate. The population of Aweday in 2007
was estimated to be over 48,680 (Aweday Town Administration: 2014).
According to local traditions, the town of Aweday was founded sometime around
1954. Historically, the site where the present town of Aweday had been located
was a small village known as Diddimtu (which literally means “the reds”).7 The
early impetus for the scattered village to grow into a sizable settlement came
from the long distance trade from Harar to the fast growing town of Dire Dawa
that crossed Diddimtu. At about 1954a certain local elder named Sheikh Yusuf,
realizing the business potential of the locality, built the rst house to be rented
for coffee and tea sellers. By about 1960 the number of small houses constructed
at the site had already reached eighteen. Another contributory factor for Aweday
to surpass all other competing khat markets in the region was the establishment
of a military camp at Hammarresa, very close to Harar, in 1964. The town of
Hammarresa, which managed to get some degree of prominence at that time, was
heavily populated by a large number of men- in- uniforms who were not allowed
to chew khat. Consequently, the heated khat trading activity at Hammarresa
started to decline. The nearby Aweday, along the Addis Ababa-Dire Dawa road,
looked a more convenient alternative for khat traders to establish a new center at
(Aweday Town Administration, 2014).
From such a beginning, in a little over half a century, Aweday grew to become
a vibrant khat trading center where tons of khat from the farmlands of East and
West Hararge region are sorted, graded and packed for domestic and international
shipment. According to the Aweday City Administration, in 2015some 60,000-
7 Still another tradition maintains that the town of Aweday draws its name from the burial ground of
a local spiritual person called Weday who passed away around 1928 and buried at the same place
where he used to teach about fairness and justice. The site of burial was widely known as Awala-
Weday which in local language means the burial of Weday. It was Awala-Weday whichgradually
evolved to be pronounced as Aweday (Aweday Town Administration (2014) A brochure titled “The
Foundation of Aweday and its Overall Features”).
Girma Negash
12
80,000 kilograms of khat were brought to the khat market at Aweday every day,
carried by a variety of means of transport, chiey Isuzu trucks. Presently, khat
trade is a means of livelihood for about10,000 inhabitants of the town whose lives
are connected to khat trade in one or another way.8 Some 8,000 khat farmers,
women and men alike, are regular visitors to the town to sell their khat bundles.
Thanks to khat trade, the daily capital turnover of Aweday town amounts to 10
million birr (Aweday Town Administration, 2015).
Khat trade beyond a mere economic activity is the reason for Aweday to earn
the epithet “the only town in Ethiopia where the sun never sets.” The hustle and
bustle of the day’s business at Aweday begins at the dawn of the day almost
every day and continues to the night. The non-stop trading activity in the town is
the reason for 24 hours-round banking service at the town which makes the city
unique in the country. Other services like the “door-less shops” also function for
almost 24 hours.
8 It is estimated that not less than a quarter of this number are youth in their teens.
2 Theoretical Considerations and Legal Perspectives
2.1 Is “Work Free Childhood” Feasible in Africa?
To start with, not all kinds of work, or conditions of work, in which children
are involved are child labor. Denitions of childhood, child labor and children’s
work should be understood and conceptualized against the background of the
widely varied cultural and social contexts that shaped the child’s experiences,
aspirations and expected roles to play. Of all other discourses so far dominant
in the literature, the ‘socially constructed child’ that prescribes the meaning and
value societies attach to children as socially and culturally constructed, and vary
from culture to culture and from one society to another seems to be well grounded
(Nsamenang, 2008:213; Kjørholt, 2004: 20-21). For instance, in the Western
cultures it is widely believed that children are beings moving towards autonomy;
while in many African cultures they are understood as instruments of lineage
continuity, and often as ‘wealth in people’ that entails the obligation of supporting
family and provision of labor in their capacity (Ansell, 2005:65).
There are divergent sometimes contentious denitions and analysis in the
discourse about child labor. Those differing views about the issue of child labor are
anchored on two overarching perspectives. The rst one is the frame of thinking
that perceives children as independent and competent economic and social
actors as opposed to the other notion that recognizes children as dependents and
vulnerable. In the rst group are those who believe that children’s involvement
in work is not harmful as such and rather should be accepted as normal.
Protagonists of this view argue that children should participate in production as
well as consumption. Their participation in work is not an inhibition but rather an
empowerment. It is rather an informal school which would allow children to learn
the basics of discipline, work ethic and life skills that are useful assets for the
future (Nsamenang 2008: 216; Bourdillon 2000). Those scholars who emphasize
the merits of children’s participation in work claim that disallowing children from
participation in production and consumption is an act of dis-empowering them
and would ultimately add to their dependence and vulnerability (Rwezaura 1998;
Bourdillon 2000). They also reinforce their argument saying that most working
children when asked their desire if they want to continue working, their answer is
in the afrmative. Therefore, it is a matter of right for these children to be able to
express their opinions and wishes on the basis of Article 12 of “Convention on the
Rights of the Child” (CRC) - that is ‘the right to express an opinion.’
Girma Negash
14
The other line of thinking espoused by an equally good number of scholars is
that children should be able to enjoy a work- free childhood. Scholars of this
group argue that work at an early age adversely affects the physical, emotional
and intellectual development of a child. The child worker is more exposed to
injuries and other health hazards than the adult. Children are not able to foresee
the eventual harms and latent risks intrinsic to some occupations (Assefa and
Boyden 1988:3-4; Kassouf et al.,2001:21). Moreover, in any market system
operating in line with capitalist principles prot and exploitation is involved
which would never leave children intact. It is to be noted that working children,
more often than not, are less paid than their adult counterparts. Child labor is also
referred to as a ‘labor without representation.’ There are no trade unions or rights
groups to protect the rights of the working child from long working hours and
negotiate a better working condition and payment. A weaker bargaining power
gives extra advantage to employers to re children without compensation any
time they want. The conclusion is that making prot out of the labor of, and
through the exploitation of, mentally immature and physically frail children is
reprehensible (Assefa and Boyden, 1988: 7; Bourdillon, 2000). Last but not least,
a more glaring casualty when children are set to be involved in paid work is
their access to formal education and their performance in school. Taking part in
any kind of productive endeavor undoubtedly shares the time which children are
supposed to spend on education and leisure. Owing to the expansion of schools
and school systems organized on shift basis (as has been the case in Ethiopia for
a long time to date),there is a wider opportunity for children to combine work
and schooling. Nevertheless it has become increasingly evident that combining
paid work and schooling jeopardizes the academic performance of those children
involved.(Bourdillon and Boyden, J., 2014: 13-14; Tizita, 2010:81-82).
In Africa and most other ‘Third World’ countries the economic realities as well as
the social and cultural milieu hardly allow work to be an adult preserve. According
to Nsamenang (2008; 216), for most African cultures “child work is not abusive,
but an African mode of social integration and responsibility training.” These
cultures do not allow children to sit idle and be dependent on their parents. Many
children across the continent are engaged in different forms of work. The context
in which children work may vary from culture to culture and from one agro-
ecological zone to another. In a nut shell, the very idea of child labor originated
in the western world with factory work and is irrelevant to Africa (Nieuwenhuys,
1998: 238).
15
Researchers have identied three distinct categories of work occupied by the
child worker namely; work in the informal sector, in the formal sector and in the
family (referring to family-run business or farming). In rural Africa household
chores and looking after livestock is the exclusive domain of the rural child. In
African peasant economies the family is the unit of production where individual
households are labor self – sufcient and children are supposed to contribute to
the labor capital of the family. These things they do, in large measure, as their
cultural responsibility to support the family and usually unpaid (Ansell,2005:70,
161- 163; Katz,2004: 143).
The pervasive inuence of global capitalism and the introduction of cash crop
agriculture in many African economies gave a new impetus for the intensication
of the role of the child in economically productive activities. This state of affairs
impacted the existing livelihood trajectories and the situation of children “working
for others” in return for wages became a normative economic practice (Abebe &
Kjørholt, 2009:176). But as time rolled on, families and children themselves were
obsessed with these kinds of work, at times closing their eyes to the possible
damage such work might cause on the health, education and the future of the
child in general. Many African countries, as a clear endorsement of children’s
work, at different stages of their history, went to the extent of adopting a national
policy that combined education with productive work (Bourdillon, 2006:1).
With the intensication of a khat-based commercial agriculture in both the two
study sites, a major shift has taken shape bringing working children to the center
of the fast growing khat industry. In those areas where the majority of people earn
their livelihood from khat production and marketing, for many young people,
developmental progress would become a continuity of experience from a part-
time student and child worker to a full time youth/adult khat trader.
2.2 Working Children in Ethiopia: An Inquiry into the Socio-legal
Landscape
“The right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from
performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s
education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual,
moral or social development.”
Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) adopted by the
United Nations General Assembly on 20 November 1989,(United Nations 1989)
Girma Negash
16
The rapid industrialization of the Western world since the mid-19th century and
the rampancy and harsh treatment of the child worker heightened the debate
and increased the concern about child labor. This led to the various legislations
issued at different times aimed at the abolition/elimination of child labor and
the exploitation of children. Anti- child labor legislations of the early days
recognized child labor more broadly as “waged work undertaken by a child under
a certain age.” Right from those early times, however, authorities are divided
between those considered immoral and exploitative forms of children’s work and
a broad spectrum of other ‘less harmful’ activities such as housekeeping, child
minding, and running errands. The latter are tolerated and even sanctioned by
many governments and on the grounds of their socializing and training effects to
the child’s future (Nieuwenhuys,1998: 238-239; Ansell, 2005:175).
Despite the long- standing debate whether children should work or not the fact
remains that a good number of children all across the globe continue to take
part in diverse productive and/or non-productive (household–related) activities.
Some children are engaged in paid work and some work in their households
without payment. The domestic and often unpaid labor of children revolve
around supporting their families in such activities as to taking care of siblings,
running errands, collecting rewood, house cleaning and assisting in farming and
tending herds. On the other hand, an overwhelming number of children are also
engaged in paid work that helps them to generate a sizable income. Leaving aside
the worst forms of child labor such as slavery, debt bondage, child trafcking
and prostitution, normally children in different parts of the world provide paid
labor services as porters, vendors, domestic servants, shoe shiners, tea and coffee
pickers and even as miners in some cases (Bourdillon, 2000).
According to one study, the Ethiopian countryside has a higher prevalence of
“child labor” than the urban centers with the ratio of 86.6% to 77.9%. The study
also reports that most working children are engaged in non-economic activities
and children work with no nancial remuneration (Ghetnet, 2010:16). In addition
to domestic work, other activities working children in rural areas undertake
include animal herding, collecting rewood, and grass-cutting, fetching water,
sweeping the oor, making coffee and washing cloths. In terms of gender, girls
outnumber boys in these activities. However, this should not be conjectured to
mean that urban children in Ethiopia are work free. Recent studies demonstrate
that the phenomenon of “child labor” in Ethiopian towns and cities is increasingly
on the rise. The commonest of jobs outside the realm of the household taken by
17
children in urban areas include, among others; shoe shining, assistants on mini-
bus taxis the woyala, [as they are known in Addis], lottery ticket selling, petty
trade and running errands. Not included in this list are prostitution and weaving
which involve exploitation and child abuse of various forms (Abebe & Kjørholt,
2009:181; Ghetnet, 2010:17).
In spite of the existence of both child labor and working children in different
capacities, both in the countryside and urban centers, Ethiopia is not yet able to
adopt a comprehensive legal document to regulate and protect the rights of its
working children. However, the FDRE Constitution, the Civil and the Criminal
Code and the Revised Family Law address child right issues. For instance, the
federal Constitution sounds clear and unequivocal in protecting and safeguarding
children. Art.36 (1d) stipulates that “Every child has the right: not to be subject
to exploitative practices, neither to be required nor permitted to perform work
which may be hazardous or harmful to his or her education, health or well-
being.” Similarly, the 2005 Criminal Code adopted some stringent provisions
criminalizing acts that in any way encroach into the well-being of the child in
some of its articles. Art. 525 (b) of this code prohibits children’s involvement
in the production and trafcking of drugs; and Art. 596(3) outlaw enslaving
children. Trafcking minors aimed at compulsory labor has also been made
illegal by Art.597 (1). A Few of the protective provisions adopted by the Labor
Proclamation No. 377/2003 include that the minimum age for employment is 14,
and set that the maximum number of hours children should work must not exceed
7 hours a day. The Revised Family Code of FDRE (2000) also touches upon some
important aspects of child rights. For instance, Art.195 stipulates the revocation
of adoption, “where the adopter, instead of looking after the adopted child as his
own child, handles him as a slave, or in conditions resembling slavery, or makes
him engage in immoral acts for his gain, or handles him in any other manner that
is detrimental to his future.”
Those efforts at national level aimed at protecting the rights of the child have
also been buttressed by Ethiopia’s ratication of international instruments,
chiey the ILO and United Nations conventions. Ethiopia’s ratication of two
United Nations Conventions/Protocols and two ILO Conventions on different
occasions could be considered as substantive measures in response to the call for
the protection of the rights of the child. Those international Conventions are the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 (UN-CRC) and
Girma Negash
18
“The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafcking in Persons, Especially
Women and Children (Palermo Protocol, 2000).
If we focus on ILO’s Minimum Age Convention, 1973(No.138) and Worst Forms
of Child Labor, 1999 (No. 182) ratied by Ethiopia, we will nd out that some
provisions in the country’s national legislations have been introduced in order to
address some of the mandatory provisions of the ILO. For instance, in response to
Convention No. 138, the 2003 Ethiopian Labor Proclamation (No. 377) xed the
age of 14 as a minimum age for employment (Art.89, 2).With full endorsement
of international standards, the Labor Law has also prohibited ‘young persons’
from taking part in any ‘hazardous work.’ Except that our focus is on matters
related to child labor, the two important provisions in the Revised Family Law
of Ethiopia - the mandatory birth registration for every child and the provision
that obliges the government to put in place structures/institutions that would
execute the process and keep the records - is in part a progress in the direction of
improving the right of the child. Yet again there remained plenty of challenges
to the issue of child labor. Arguably the condition of those children working in
the “khat workshops” for long hours, often at night, owing to the requirements of
khat business, risking their education and their physical and psychological well-
being is highly precarious.
The fact that the term child labor is loosely used in the current discourse and
literature calls for a working denition at this juncture in order to show how it
should be understood in this study. More often than not, the term “child labor”
is interchangeably used with other more legal and less harmful engagements of
the child. ILO’s Statistical Information and Monitoring Program on Child Labor
(SIMPOC) considers lots of variables; such as the age range of the children
involved and the number of hours they are engaged in work per week, before
making a decision whether or not a child labor situation exists.
One has to make sure the prevalence of all these conditions 9 and measure the
scale of their impact on the child before making a pronouncement about the
existence of child labor.
9 Here is SIMPOC’s elaborate set of criterion that are used to determine the existence of a child
labor situation; i) a child under 12 who is economically active for one or more hours per week;
(ii) a child 14 and under who is economically active for at least 14 hours per week; (iii) a child
17 and under who is economically active for at least 43 hours per week; (iv) a child 17 and under
who participates in activities that are “hazardous by nature or circumstance” for one or more hours
per week; and, (v) a child 17 and under who participates in an unconditional worst form of child
19
Others also use a less complex yardstick to determine whether or not a condition
of child labor exists which hangs on three key considerations: “the child’s age, the
type and conditions of work, and the effects of the work on the child.” In contrast
to child labor, the term “children’s work,” frequently appears in the literature
and looks more broad and overarching. It refers to the wide range of activities
performed by children; be it paid or unpaid work, domestic work or market-
oriented activities, full time or part- time, in the formal or informal sector, in a
family business or in an enterprise owned by another employer. The act of child
labor might take place in one of the above listed contexts, thus it should be viewed
as a subset of the broader designation, children’s work (Ghetnet, 2010:13).
Indeed, what is happening in the two khat marketing centers under study has
a stark resemblance with what the ILO denes as child labor “… work that is
deemed inappropriate because the workers are too young, or because it has adverse
impact on their well-being or education, [emphasis added] or is considered
hazardous”(Ansell, 2005:160).The empirical data and my own observation show
that the above ILO parameter is more or less fullled to claim that child labor is in
existence in the two study sites. However, I preferred, in this work, to explaining
the situation in terms of children’s work rather than “child labor.”I argue in
this study that the on-going khat trade in the study areas is making use of labor
provided by children who are “too young,” and whose education and well-being
would be adversely affected in one way or another. The study has also underlines
that these children are involved in the trade of a psychoactive substance capable
of causing addiction. This makes the whole affair more complex and morally
reprehensible for a nation to stay indifferent while a sizable number of its school-
age children do not go to school and are plunged into addiction at a very young
age.
labor” such as trafcked children, children in bondage or forced labor, armed conict, prostitution,
pornography, illicit activities. (ILO, Dening Child labor: A Review of the Denitions of Child
Labor in Policy Research, 2009: 19).
3 The Interface between Children’s Involvement in Khat Trading
Activities and their Education
3.1 The Age Prole of Child Workers in the Khat Industry
It is difcult to provide the precise number of children engaged in activities
related to preparing khat bundles before they leave the production zones. Local
ofcials and veteran khat traders prefer talking in terms of percentages than
giving a near accurate estimate. Note that khat trade is full of irregularities and
inconsistent practices. For instance, the number of people involved in the trade is
not consistent all through a given year, or even in a given month. Traders might
go out of business due to a strained khat supply in some seasons, or shortage
of capital, or even bankruptcy. Moreover, people can easily turn to other more
sustainable businesses whenever they wish to. Most importantly, children,
especially the ‘migrants’ as in Aweday, may be forced to turn to any of the
available jobs rather than sticking to work in the khat industry. In any case, at
Aweday the estimate for children in the khat industry goes up to 50% of the total
persons involved10, and in Wondo Genet it goes up to 70%.11
In as much as the subjects of this study are children who are involved in khat
trade, it is imperative that we assess the age distribution of those children actively
participating in local-level khat transaction. As discussed in the foregone pages,
the argument for a ‘work- free childhood’ proved to be less watertight and is
increasingly on the wane as far as Africa is concerned. The phenomenon of the
child worker is not something uncommon in Ethiopia, and is even reported on the
rise in recent times owing to the pervasive inuence of capitalist elements (such
as the cash economy) both in towns and countryside. My empirical evidence is
consistent with the original hypothesis that child workers exist and take a major
part in the process of khat transaction and preparation for market in the khat
assembling centers of the regions.
The age distribution of those children working in the khat industry in the selected
sites is worth considering at this juncture, because it is of crucial signicance
10 Interview with Abdulhamid Majid (khat trader), 12/2/2016, Aweday; and with Abdulhakim
Abdulahi (Warada Finance ofce), 14/2/2016, Aweday.
11 Interview with Ato Girma Gobena (Manager of Chuko Kebele Administration), 21/12/2015,
Chuko; and with Legamo Ledamo ( khat trader), Chuko, 4/12/2015.
Girma Negash
22
in verifying our claim that children are actively involved in the process of
khat marketing. Analyzing the situation vis-à-vis the Ethiopian law and other
international conventions about working children and their rights would make the
discussion more meaningful.
Table 1: Age range of children working in the khat industry
Age Wondo Genet Aweday Total
Highest age 18 16 18
Lowest age 8 12 8
Average 14.6 14.3 14.5
SD 2.48 1.09 2.19
Table1 above shows the highest and the lowest age of the sample population
conrming that the highest age limit of those involved is 18 years of age while the
lowest limit is 8 years, which is a little lower than the age group that is referred
to as ‘adolescent.’ Table 2 below presents the overall age- map of the respondents
at the two study sites and plainly shows the pattern of children’s involvement in
the khat industry.
Table 2: Age distribution of the working children
Age
Frequency % of the working children age in the
sample population
Wondo Genet Aweday Total Wondo Genet Aweday Total
8 3 0 3 3.70% 0.00% 2.7%
9 1 0 1 1.23% 0.00% 0.9%
10 2 0 2 2.47% 0.00% 1.8%
11 6 0 6 7.41% 0.00% 5.4%
12 5 2 7 6.17% 6.67% 6.3%
13 6 6 12 7.41% 20.00% 10.8%
14 6 4 10 7.41% 13.33% 9.0%
15 13 16 29 16.05% 53.33% 26.1%
16 24 2 26 29.63% 6.67% 23.4%
17 11 011 13.58% 0.00% 9.9%
18 4 0 4 4.94% 0.00% 3.6%
Total 81 30 111 100% 100% 100.0%
23
Of a particular note here is that the average age of the sample population. As shown
on Table 1 above, in Wondo Genet and Aweday it is 14.6 and 14.3 respectively. In
spite of the fact that Ethiopia’s law, (Proclamation No. 377/2003), establishes the
minimum age for employment to be 14, a sizable number of respondents whose
ages are below 14 are engaged in work related to khat processing and trade; and
some of them have already been in the business for more than two years. The
graph below (see Figure 1) shows the age/ ages with the highest concentration
of respondents. It clearly demonstrates that the majority of children engaged in
khat- related activities are school-age children, over half of them between the age
of 14- 16.
Table 3 below shows that one-third of the sample population of those children
involved in khat trading activities in Wondo Genet are ‘migrants’ coming from
neighboring Warada outside of Wondo Genet. The table also shows the age
distribution of both ‘migrant’ and resident children of the sample population.
Of the sample population of the ‘migrant’ boys 10.3% of them have the lowest
minimum age that is just eight. Half of the sample population of the ‘migrant’ boys
are below the minimum working age according to the Ethiopian Labor law, which
is 14. In contrast, the highest frequency of working boys among the residents,
which is about 78%, is above the age of 15. From this it can be construed that
more ‘migrant’ working children are exposed and vulnerable because they are
into the work world at a very young age even below the minimum age required
by the law of the country.
Fig.1: Percentage of age distribution of the working children by research site
Girma Negash
24
Table 3: Resident and ‘Migrant’ status of the sample population in Wondo Genet
Age
‘Migrants’ Residents Total
Frequency % out of the
Migrants Frequency % out of the
residents Frequency % out of
the Total
8 3 10.3% 0 0.0% 3 3.7%
9 1 3.4% 0 0.0% 1 1.2%
10 2 6.9% 0 0.0% 2 2.5%
11 3 10.3% 3 5.8% 6 7.4%
12 2 6.9% 3 5.8% 5 6.2%
13 3 10.3% 3 5.8% 6 7.4%
14 4 13.8% 2 3.8% 6 7.4%
15 5 17.2% 8 15.4% 13 16.0%
16 6 20.7% 18 34.6% 24 29.6%
17 0 0.0% 11 21.2% 11 13.6%
18 0 0.0% 4 7.7% 4 4.9%
Total 29 100.0% 52 100.0% 81 100.0%
Unfortunately, for various reasons, we do not have a similar quantitative data
helpful to explain the living and working condition of the ‘migrant’ workers of
Aweday thoroughly. Although there are a sizable number of ‘migrant’ workers
in the khat industry at Aweday, the fact of the matter is that they did not ll
questionnaires. The problem is that; rstly, they do all kinds of work available
to them rather than depending on khat- related jobs alone. Secondly, most of the
‘migrant’ workers feel too insecure to tell their ‘migrant’ status and are resistant
to lling questionnaires. Thirdly, they are not distinctly visible as a group and
you found them operating individually which makes it difcult to identify who
they are. Moreover, asking them where they are from is a ‘strange’ question that
evokes mistrust aggravating their insecurity even farther. Fourthly, the few willing
‘migrants’ whom I have convinced to ll the questionnaire after an arduous effort,
barely reach the required sample size. Thus, I just decided to conduct in-depth
interviews with some that are willing to respond to open-ended questions.
3.2 The Work Context for Children in the Khat Industry
In this sub- section the study attempts to identify where exactly the labor of the
child plays an active role in the khat value chain and what distinct works are often
performed by children in those centers where khat assembling and packing takes
25
place. The following tasks are identied as the domains of the child worker in
the khat assembling centers. In fact, the labor of the child comes to the picture
from the very initial stage of the khat value chain, the farm gate. It all starts with
pruning and trimming of khat leaves and branches to make khat bundles ready
for transport to the khat assembling centers. At Aweday and its environs rarely do
traders from towns go to nearby villages to buy the product on the farm. Only few
of the khat supplying farms to the Aweday market are closely situated to the town
of Aweday to be reached by traders from the town to do the harvesting. Those
faraway farms known for quality khat in most parts of Eastern Hararge send their
khat to Aweday and this research did not look into the way khat is harvested and
the labor mobilized and deployed in the process which deserves a special study
in its own right.
In the context of Wondo Genet, however, khat traders12 from Chuko town and
other neighboring Warada which supply khat to the Tafara market mobilize the
labor force for harvesting from among young people around the khat farm and its
vicinity. Most importantly, however, these traders take the labor to be deployed
in the khat farms largely from among those ‘migrant’ boys in Chuko town readily
available to take this work. Every morning from 5:00 A.M - 7:00 A.M. more
than 200 boys are swarming in the valley of a dry stream at the eastern fringes
of Chuko town seeking employment for the day. They are paid on daily basis,
and the average amount of pay for these boys may vary from 20-30 birr per day
depending on their physical strength and their track record of performance. A few
of these boys are also paid in kind. These ones are remunerated by some amount
of khat leaves collected as a residue while khat is cut from trees and when the
rst- round of trimming and pruning is done at farm-level. This is a low quality
khat locally known as pajaro khat (a Sidama version of Hararge’s Tacharo) sold
for local consumers in plastic bags. 13
The other important job open for children is at the market centers where they
serve as assistants to traders while they buy khat from farmers and other khat
suppliers. Here, their duty is to select good quality khat bundles and to do the
12 These are specically traders locally known as YaGabare- Nagade (“farmer-trader”) who are
originally farmers, or at least members of a peasant household, hence farmer-traders. Their principal
duty is buying khat from farmers on the standing trees and as shrubs on the farms. This in fact is a
very demanding duty which requires constant mobility sufcient capital, connection with feeders
of information, and bargaining skills.
13 Interview with Matios Elamo (farmer -trader) and Matios Legede (‘migrant’ boy), 21/12/2015,
Chuko town.
Girma Negash
26
price negotiation on behalf of the khat trader (those at the Tafara market, whom
I call “Agent –Purchasers”, and the Abba Sefera of the Aweday market) so that
farmer- traders agree to the deal proposed by the child’s boss. One very important
service children at both markets provide is accompanying their respective bosses
to the market place and assisting them in the scramble for a better quality khat.
The role of this group of children in the context of the Tafara market is invaluable.
This is because of the fact that a good number of the “Agent –Purchasers”
operating at the Tafara market are non- Sidama traders and need the service of
those children both as translators and as middlemen in the price negotiations. At
Aweday, children doing this kind of job are known as Gefeta. Their major job is
bringing as many khat suppliers and as much khat bundles as possible to their
respective client- purchasers in return for a commission payment from the trader.
What made the service of the Gefeta more desirable to khat traders is that they
nish the lobbying and the price negotiations on their own.14
The other major activity in which the few better skilled children can engage
themselves in is probably a highly sophisticated service needed in the “khat
workshops.” The “khat workshops” are small and big houses alike situated side
by side, or around the khat assembling centers. They are platforms where the
most decisive operations of ‘aggregation’ and ‘re-aggregation,’ ‘combination’ and
‘recombination’ of different varieties, of khat takes place, with the imaginable
implications on the retail price. According to a recent study, “It is under the roofs
of these small houses that the art of ‘playing with form’ is practiced with cunning
hands well intended to manipulate value” (Girma, 2014). Only the better skilled
and experienced children connected to traders might get access to this job. Here
children are engaged not simply in wrapping and packing of khat bundles, but
also in the aggregation and re-aggregation process well intended to maximize
prot. This is an important work for both the trader and the children involved.
It is important for the trader in that more value is added to the product by just
combining and recombining of the same product. For the children, this work is
important, as it is the highest paying job in the khat industry.
It is interesting to note that the practice is the same at both Aweday and
Wondo Genet. In both cases, it is at this level that prot is maximized through
manipulation, aggregation and re-aggregation. Children participating in those
activities have given different names that are indicative of what exactly is being
14 Interview with Abdulhamid Majid, 12/2/2016, Aweday; Interview with Legamo Ledamo
4/12/2015.
27
done. In the context of the Wondo Genet market, the variety of activities such
as medereb (the process of making small wraps) metefere and metqelel (tying
up and wrapping) which are all part of the preparation of smaller units from big
bundles, can be put into this category. As widely known among the khat trading
community at Aweday, the job process concerned with the preparation of smaller
units is alternatively known as Zefa or Shelala. The major task for those engaged
in this work is categorizing khat types according to their quality and preparing
standard units with varying weights and price tags such as 200 birr, 300 birr, 500
birr 1000 birr etc.15 This work process is not open to the majority of children in
the khat industry but only available for those very skilled in the art and trusted
by the trader.
The least in the hierarchy of working children in the khat industry are those
who are engaged in doing the relatively low- paying jobs. These are the porters,
the cleaners and the errand boys. The sum total of children engaged in these
categories of work comprises the larger majority of children working in the khat
industry. Secondly, these are tasks that do not require any kind of skill and can be
performed by any able-bodied young person; hence they are the least – rewarding
jobs. In fact the boundary among these job categories is not that rigid. A child
who serves as an errand boy now can be a cleaner after a while, so does a cleaner
can run errands whenever the need arises.
The porters are many in number and largely provide their services out of the
connes of the “khat workshops.” Their job usually is to carry big bundles
of khat from delivery vehicles to the “khat workshops,” and they assist in the
process of measuring the wrapped khat. They also fetch the khat bundles that
passed through the branding, weighing and pricing process to vehicles which
take them to their nal destinations. The large majority of children engaged in
this activity are ‘migrant’ children coming from neighboring Waradas in search
of wage employment. Especially in the context of the Tafara market, this job is
the exclusive domain of the ‘migrants’.
The cleaners are those who clean the “khat workshops” every now and then at a
reasonable interval before the oors of the workshops are swamped by leftovers
and khat garbage. On the other hand, the area of operation of the errand boys can
be anywhere around the khat market. They are prominently active at Aweday
where their services among others include, buying and bringing cigarettes, soft
15 Interview with Abdulhamid Majid, 12/2/2016, Aweday.
Girma Negash
28
drinks, drinking water, and at times even food for other workers and traders
extremely absorbed in their respective duties in the workshops. In general, they
provide all the necessary supplies people in the “khat workshops” might need any
time during the day or at night.
3.3 ‘Migrant’ Children: Les Misérables of the Khat Industry
The other group of children working in the khat industry whose working and
living conditions require a separate analysis here is the group, which I refer to as
‘migrants’. These are children in their school- ages, the same as the group which
I call “residents.” However, they do not go to school now. Most importantly these
are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged of all the children working in the khat
industry, hence Les Misérables.
Qualitative data demonstrates that ‘migrant’ children working in the khat industry
constitute a signicant part of the working population both at the Aweday and
the Wondo Genet khat markets. Coming to the khat assembling centers seeking
wage employment and unwittingly trapped by that life indenitely is the hallmark
of this group of young boys both at Aweday and Wondo Genet. Those ‘migrant’
workers at both the two centers have demonstrates that ‘migrant’ children
working in the khat industry constitute other commonalities such as very poor
living condition and engagement in the most degrading and the least remunerative
jobs (such as cleaning and porters). In spite of these commonalities they have
also some differences which technically defy a linear analysis treating them as a
homogeneous group.
‘Migrant’ children working in Wondo Genet are different from those working
in Aweday. In Wondo Genet, ‘migrant’ child workers make a cohesive unit that
makes them distinct and visible as a group. Places where they sleep at night are
distinctly known and are their exclusive quarters. At day break they prowl in
groups, both in large and small groups, around the eastern outskirts of Chuko
town before heading for the day’s work on the farms. And at sundown they repeat
the same routine around the khat market of Chuko town ready to carry khat
bundles from the trucks that bring khat from the various farms to the inner part of
the khat market where the stalls are found. The towns people easily identify them
partly by their relative shabby dressing and overall appearance, and partly they
often are seen together in large or in small groups.
29
Fig. 2: Field interview with children engaged in khat labor in Chuko town
Fig 3: ‘Migrant’ children and boys waiting for the khat job in Chuko town
Girma Negash
30
Fig 4: Very young children in khat market in Chuko town
Fig. 5: Young boys working in khat workshops in Chuko town
31
The original home areas of the ‘migrant’ children swarming around the Tafara
market in Wondo Genet are the nearby Warada in the Sidama Zone namely;
Malaga, Gorche and Shebedino. A few others also mention some far away
Warada of the same Zone such as Alata-Wondo and Arbegona as places where
they have come from. What can be drawn from conversations in group discussion
sessions with these participants is that most parents of these children could afford
to send their kids to nearby rural schools. The most repeated answer to the same
question, why they abandoned their parents’ homes and came to Chuko town,
is the “changes” they saw on friends and peers who have come to Chuko town
earlier and returned back for family visits.
In contrast, the ‘migrant’ children at Aweday have joined the khat industry
with a clear purpose of making a living. In fact some of the ‘migrant’ children
interviewed pointed out that they have migrated to the town of Aweday with their
fathers who also picked up one or the other kinds of work in the khat industry.
As the big jobs in the khat industry require capital and connection, even the
adult ‘migrants’ are forced to start with low - paying jobs until they are able to
penetrate into the oligarchy of senior khat traders, or the rank of the Aba Sefera.
Hopelessness, growing scarcity of arable land and lack of prospects for the
agricultural economy in rural areas of East and West Hararge are among the range
of push factors for the ‘migrant’ workers to ock to Aweday seeking employment
in the khat industry. At least in this case, one cannot totally downplay poverty as
a contributing factor.
The education of the ‘migrants’ and their performance in schools might not be
a subject of detailed inquiry because they already are dropouts from the lowest
grades of elementary education with only memories of the good old days. Only
9 out of the 29 ‘migrant’ children who lled the questionnaire in Wondo Genet
reported that they still go to school confronting the range of adversities and
challenges they encounter as “part-time” students. The large majority of ‘migrant’
children reported that they had been in one of the lowest grades of the rst cycle
of primary school in their home areas.
Working in the khat workshops” is a much desired and a highly coveted job for
this group of children. Getting access to the better types of jobs requires familial
ties or some other connections to khat traders who run khat businesses and own
khat workshop.” The large majority of those khat traders both in Wondo Genet
and Aweday are local people, whereas the ‘migrants’ are “outsiders” with little
Girma Negash
32
or no chance of having connections to those traders. Therefore, jobs that are
open to this group are the contemptible, the most labor intensive and the least
remunerative ones. For example, the dominant majority of porters who carry khat
bundles to and from Isuzu trucks and all around the khat markets are ‘migrant’
children. The result of the survey show that of the total of 29 ‘migrants’, 19
(65.5%) of them get their daily earnings from cleaning and working as porters,
while just 5 (9.6%) of the “residents” are engaged in such types of jobs.
Similarly, the daily earnings of the ‘migrants’ rarely exceed 30 birr a day. There is
a higher risk of getting nothing all day long, especially in seasons when the khat
business itself slows down. Figure 2 above is additional conrmation that the
income of the ‘migrant’ children is indeed by far less than the “resident” children
who like them take part in the trading activities of the khat industry. The average
daily income of the residents is 45.10 birr, while that of the ‘migrants’ is only
27.93 birr a day. The maximum income of the “residents” as obtained from the
sample population goes as high as 75 birr, while that of the ‘migrants’ does not
exceed 50 birr a day.
Their lodgings where they spend the nights are egregiously abominable and
perilous. The rooms where they sleep, which for various reasons are impossible
Fig. 6: Daily income of ‘migrant’ and resident child workers in the khat ‘industry
33
Fig. 7: Young boys carrying heavy load of khat to the market (Chuko town)
Fig. 8: Very young children are also engaged in carrying khat
Girma Negash
34
Fig. 9: ‘Rush hour’ at the Tafara khat market, Chuko town
Fig.10: Some children engaged in khat job while others go to school (Chuko
town)
35
to get access to,16are reported to be the worst places for a young person even for a
few hours of a night’s sleep. Responses are almost unanimous about the number
of roommates those rooms accommodate each night. The average number of
roommates those 4mt. x 4mt. rooms is reported to be 15-20. Those over-crowded
and suffocating rooms by themselves speak volumes about the living conditions
of those wretched children of the khat industry.
Recently ‘migrant’ children working in the khat industry have become a talking
point in Chuko town. Group discussion with local authorities in Wondo Genet
reveals that, ‘migrant’ children have increasingly become a threat to social
security. What greatly added to their visibility is not so much their despicable
living condition than some reports of virulent communicable diseases that claimed
some lives, involvement in criminal activities, and alcohol-driven violence. The
most agonizing incident in Wondo Genet that led to a prompt action of local
ofcials was the devouring of one of those children by a hyena while slept in a
shack under construction because of his inability to pay for a sleeping place.
Local authorities took the lead to do something about these children. Accordingly,
in 2015 it was decided to repatriate ‘migrant’ children to their home areas. It is
not clear where the rst instruction for the repatriation of these children came
from. But Chuko town’s administration was given the mandate to organize
the process of repatriation. The number of ‘migrant’ children to be repatriated
was not determined conclusively. According to a local ofcial of Chuko kebele
Administration, nearly 1,200 ‘migrant’ children (700 in the rst round and 500 in
second round) were caught and sent back to their home areas. Sadly the deterrent
effect of this measure was insignicant and its impact in curbing the ow of
‘migrant’ children to the town of Chuko was barely minimal.17
16 These are shanty places very dismal for visitors. Owners have been repeatedly admonished by
local authorities for renting such places and warned not to rent such places any more. But those
young children keep on coming every night for they have no other cheaper options than those rented
for 3 birr on average per head. By the same token, for owners of those places, the untaxed income
of about 60 birr (which is 3x20) every day is no doubt a tempting benet. For all these reasons
owners, I am told, want the milking to continue secretly but do not feel comfortable talking about
their “business”.
17 Interview with Ato Girma Gobena (Manager of Chuko Kebele Administration), 21/12/2015,
Chuko town.
Girma Negash
36
This commendable18 effort to repatriate the ‘migrant’ children to their original
villages was aborted right from the very start. In the words of a local ofcial,
“Almost all of those children repatriated were able to come back to Chuko
town ahead of the same trucks that carried them to their home areas.”19 It was
a hastily arranged endeavor, and failed to bring about a lasting solution to the
problem. In the rst place, it was a sort of a crisis management to respond to the
public uproar created because of the boy devoured by a hyena. A major pitfall
was the lack of coordination of ofcials and other stakeholders involved, and
adequate organization of the scheme. Some individuals were even seen providing
newly purchased educational materials such as exercise books and pencils to
the returnees in the hope of making the process voluntary. Despite all these, the
lessons to be learned from the past before embarking on a similar scheme in the
future are very important.
3.4 Gender
Last, but not least, to be considered at this juncture is the issue of gender and
the division of labor between men and women in the khat trading system. In
general, as it stands today, in the two khat assembling centers, the participation of
women in khat marketing and trade is marginal. Even more so, “khat workshops”
are male-dominated places where one can witness a clear gender bias. In large
measure, it is this state of affairs that profoundly inuenced why much of the
discussion and themes raised in this study are male- focused and almost all the
respondents are boys.
However, this is not to undermine the enormous capital and riches very few
women such as the “big lady of khat,” Sura Esmael and a lady widely known by
the name Qershi have accrued over the years, and the dominant role they play
in the khat export trade. The former has for long been a trader and khat exporter
largely to the Somaliland city of Hargessa and other towns in the Ogaden region;
while the latter is a notable gure in the khat export business to Djibouti. This
being said, in Aweday any spectator can see hundreds of women swarming
around the Magala Jimaa and the main asphalt road heading to Dire Dawa and
18 There was no time to think about a strategically sound solution at that moment. Anything that can
halt the rising tension and calm down the public will do for local ofcials.
19 Interview with Ato Nigatu Girma, (Head, Wondo Genet Warada Administration Ofce),
21/12/2015.
37
Addis Ababa. Some of these ladies are Gefeta20 and some others are engaged in
collecting smaller bundles of khat from farmers and putting the smaller fractions
together to sell them to traders in kilograms. Still a few others purchase khat at
Aweday and send it to their business partners in other towns such as Adama and
Dire Dawa. But the bottom line is that they are all mature women over 17 and 18
years old. With the exception of a handful of few, the large majority of them are
either married women, or widows, or divorcees, and hence not among the target
population of this study. Sartu Abdulmelik, a 9th grade student aged 15, whom I
was able to interview, is perhaps one of the very few young girls who are taking
part in the khat trading activities around Magala Jimaa and still manage to go
to school. Even then, the likes of Sartu are not engaged in activities within the
connes of “khat workshops.”
In Wondo Genet and the Tafara market, however, women’s participation in
khat trade has been visibly minimal and only subsidiary. Their role is limited
to the provision of tisho and hokkitto to khat traders. In fact tisho and hokkitto
are materials of critical signicance without which the process of packaging and
wrapping is impossible. Tisho is a string made of the bers of the outer layers of
the enset trunk. Hokkitto, on the other hand, is a local name for the enset leaves
used for wrapping the larger bundles as well as the several smaller units within
the larger bundle. These women traders who specialize in the tisho / hokkitto
business are predominantly married women who are not concerned with their
own schooling anymore and rather need the money to supplement their household
needs.
3.5 Motivational Factors: Why do Children Work in the Khat Industry?
Based on ndings from an earlier eld work at Wondo Genet, I have been
arguing that khat trade is a business of the youth (Girma, 2007 E.C.). It absorbs a
signicant proportion of the youth participating in the khat value chain in different
capacities. In other words, the youth, more than any other age-group, is a vital
force in the process of khat transaction at local level. This partly is owing to the
very nature of khat being a perishable commodity with a shelf life of a maximum
of 48 hours. Khat maintains its potency if it is used within 48 hours after being
20 As mentioned earlier for boys, this is a gender-free reference that applies to female workers
as well who are intermediaries connecting those suppliers who fetch the khat from the farm to
the market. They make life easier to the client purchase by handling the larger part of the price
negotiations on his behalf and get a commission for their service.
Girma Negash
38
cut. Therefore, khat has to be marketed as quickly as possible. That is why the
khat business requires maximum efciency and long hours of hard work. Traders
and their assistants have to work hard, overcoming fatigue caused by sleepless
nights. The business of khat trade needs lots of people who can adjust themselves
to the urgency and hustle that characterize the trade, and are ready to work under
pressure. That is why energetic youth are needed to take up the job of buying,
sorting, packing, loading-unloading, transporting, and the selling of khat (Girma
2007 E.C: 196-197).
Studies that set out to explore the reasons behind children’s involvement in paid
labor activities underline poverty as one of the driving factors. It has also been
unequivocally pronounced in the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention of
1999, No. 182 “… that child labor is to a great extent caused by poverty and
that the long-term solution lies in sustained economic growth leading to social
progress….” The 1996 “Development and Social Welfare Policy” of the FDRE
underlines that ‘poverty and marginalization’ are major push factors for children
to engage in wage employment. For many working children, it is believed, wage
employment is either a means of livelihood or a means of supplementing meager
family income, or both. However, contrary to this widely held belief, the large
majority of children engaged in khat- related work in the two study sites are not
forced into the khat business by a dire need to contribute to the family income.
Neither do they consider the income they generate from khat business as a lifeline
for their families. This is best attested by the responses participants gave to the
question why they rst went into the khat business. As shown in Figure 11 above,
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
Personal
livelih ood
Fam.liv eliho od
Peer influence
Family
pressure
neighbourhood
No. of Respondents
Fig. 11: Reasons for children’s participation in khat trading activities.
39
51 out of 90 respondents in Wondo Genet and Aweday, which is 56.67 % of the
respondents, replied that they joined the khat industry in large measure because
of direct and indirect family pressure, however, not so much caused by poverty
Results of in -depth interviews and group discussions adds credence to the
assertion that the role of parents, wittingly or unwittingly, pushing their children
into the khat industry is a factor of an overriding signicance. The response of
the majority of children to the question why they joined the khat industry reveals
that there is the hand of parents or a close relative pushing them into the business.
A family member, running a khat business, is frequently cited as the one reason
behind a child’s entry into the khat industry. Group interviews with the working
children in Wondo Genet reveals that, more often than not, the rst recruiters of
many children into the khat industry are either a father, or an elder brother, or an
uncle, or one of their cousins. When asked about the reason that enticed them to
join the khat industry, most working children cite reasons such as; “ assisting a
father and /or an elder brother already in the business,” “to learn the art of the
trade from a father, or a brother, or any other relative,” offer from a friend of
the father to work in the khat industry,” “ the insistence from one’s father/mother
to be self- sufcient,” “family advice to spend evenings at “meaningful” places
than simply wasting time with friends.” In sum, these are indicators that poverty
and livelihood are less responsible than family pressure in driving children,
particularly the ‘resident’ boys, into working in the khat industry in my study
localities.
A somewhat intriguing issue that comes to the surface in this connection is that a
good number of respondents underlined the fact that parents often insist children,
directly or indirectly, to working the khat industry. It might sound normal if such
parents are of the sort we can call “poor”, or who have very little income for
family sustenance. But, according to respondents, these are families with average
or above average income by local standards. It is also reported that families (with
the exception of the very rich ones) in both the two sites encourage children to
join the khat industry as child workers. The following phrase in Sidama language,
has become a daily catchword in several Sidama households when a child is
hesitant to take up a job in the khat industry; ሄዴሎ ሲአኒ አንጋላ ኦቲና፣ [literally, “go
and work do not see my hands / do not expect from me”]. Some members of the
local community are of the opinion that such a family “pressure” is justiable
when seen from the perspective of the responsibility of parents to guide their
children to a promising career or a paying job in a region where scarcity of land
Girma Negash
40
is a growing problem. The employers prefer young people/children to the rest of
the available labor force due to a combination of a number of factors. Firstly, as
revealed by the accounts of khat traders, who have years of experience employing
children in their rms, the major attraction in employing young people/children
is relatively cheaper labor cost. Children working in that industry are paid very
little as compared to their adult counterparts. A very simple economic truism not
hidden to the khat trader is that, “If children’s productivity is similar to that of
adults, the use of child labor is economically rational” (Ansell, 2005: 170). The
next attraction that draws the employer towards the labor of children is their
speed and efciency in discharging their duties, an indispensable asset in any
rm that runs a khat trading business. This in fact proves the view that khat trade
is the business of the youth. The third important attribute of the labor of the child
that attracts employers has more to do with culture than economic imperatives.
Employers are often more at ease in giving orders to children and younger people
in general than to persons of their own age, or people older than themselves.
3.6 Working in the Khat Industry and its Impact on the Child’s Education
Children’s engagement in Education has been considered as a strong and viable
tool in the struggle to mitigate the problem of child labor, or the rising number of
working children globally (Education International, 2013:17). A very important
instrument adopted by the ILO with the highest relevance to the issue of child
labor was the “ILO Convention 138” that solidly establishes access to basic
education for all children (EFA) is a key to combat child labor. As stated in the
introductory section of this monograph, the purpose of this study is not to explain
the correlation between child labor and education per se; rather it is intended to
shed some light on contexts, such as the one in the khat industry, where education
and children’s work go hand in hand. The ndings of this study demonstrate a
condition where school-age children are forced to become paid workers in the
khat industry without a total abandonment of schooling.
It should be established that, the subjects of this study are partly those child
workers who combine schooling and working in the thriving khat industry of
Ethiopia. ILO’s reliance on increased access to education as a means of combating
child labor has proved to be less of a potent weapon to combat the problem in
our case. The situation on the ground in the selected study sites is different in
that these children workers are actually enrolled in schools, thus not entirely
barred from schooling. The major inquiry in this study is what it is like to be a
41
part-time student, at that early age, allocating much of one’s time for something
else than education. What are the challenges of the working child that hinder
his access to quality education at the right age? Still in the educational sphere,
this study attempts to investigate the extent to which this group of children are
disadvantaged as compared to the full- time students because of their involvement
in an extra- educational activity, khat trade. Most importantly, our investigation
into their life style and working condition vis-à-vis their performance in school
would hopefully unravel the magnitude of the impact working in the khat industry
has on the education of those children under study. These are the children who
I claim are disadvantaged and “victims of socio-economic change.” Their right
to quality education is slipping out of their hands because they are excessively
engrossed by their jobs in the khat economy.
Table 4: Working hours
Number of hours they
work every night
Wondo Genet Aweday
freq. % freq. %
1 hr 2 2.5% 00%
2hrs 4 4.9% 26.7%
3hrs 23 28.4% 516.7%
4hrs 26 32.1% 516.7%
5hrs 14 17.3% 723.3%
6hrs 12 14.8% 516.7%
7hrs 0 0.0% 413.3%
8hrs 0 0.0% 26.7%
Total 81 100.0 % 30 100.0%
It is demonstrable from the current trend that a good number of children spend
a very useful part of their day in an economic activity related to the trade in a
stimulant. These children will be subjected to a situation in which they cannot have
a balanced and fairly distributed 24 hours. A major causality in this imbalance in
the distribution of a child’s time is his/her education. Empirical evidence shows
that a good number of the school- going children of the khat industry are very
brave young people determined to pursue their education even under the most
unfavorable circumstances. Chief among the challenges is the working hour of
the khat industry. The working hours of the khat industry both at Wondo Genet
and Aweday stretch from late afternoon all through the night, and to daybreak as
Girma Negash
42
is the case in Aweday. The number of hours individual children are engaged in
their daily routine in the khat industry may vary from one individual to the other.
Table 4 above shows that 32.1% of the respondents in Wondo Genet spend 4 hours
every night, and 17.3% spend 5 hours working in the khat industry. In Aweday,
the gure more or less shows a similar trend. Those who said they spend 4 hours
every night are 16.4% of the respondents, while 23.3 % of the respondents spend
5 hours each day and 16.7% said they spend 6 hours every night.
It is crystal clear that these hours are in the night where a child, should go to sleep
and get sufcient sleep so that he/she can go to school the next morning. Long
working hours in the night might be tolerable when they are for a day or two. But
when this is a regular pattern in the life of a child, it is barely possible for such
a child to actively follow his/her lessons during the daytime due to the fatigue
and exhaustion caused by lack of adequate night’s sleep. According to teachers
working in local schools of the study areas, fatigue, drowsiness and frequent
yawning are some of the signs with which they easily distinguish those who are
working in khat markets from those who do not. Understandably these are not
symptoms of a healthy and motivated child in schools, and more so they are
directly proportional to the receptivity and academic performance of those who
combine schooling and khat trade.
The bottom line here is that it can easily be construed that these circumstances and
the overall working condition of those boys in the khat industry is by no means
in harmony with Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child ( CRC)
which reads, “The right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation
and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with
the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental,
spiritual, moral or social development.” Neither is it the sort of work that can be
tolerated as ‘less harmful’ even by African standards. What reinforces this farther
is that the working condition of those children also involves a latent risk on their
health not less because of the lack of adequate night’s sleep but because of the
higher probability of those young boys to picking up a khat chewing habit which
has the potential of creating addiction.
What emerged from the discussion with FGD participants among those who
combine work and schooling is that this group have no time for academic
engagements such as studying, going to the library or doing homework in their
out- of- school hours. In general, time has always been in short supply for this
43
group of child workers. When they are in the morning shift, the time between
lunch hours and the beginning of work in the khat markets is too short to
concentrate and study unless one has a strong discipline and is time conscious.
When they are in the afternoon shift, much of the morning, whether they like it
or not, is spent on sleeping. On top of all these, most of them also have family
commitments to which they have to contribute their labor in different forms.
Other working children outside the khat industry may use the night-time for some
of those academic activities. On the contrary, the nights are the busy hours of
every trader and participant of the khat market. It is already stated that even while
attending classes these children are suffering from fatigue and drowsiness, which
are the consequences of the night-time work in the khat markets. These young
workers also added that if someone among them tells that he goes to the library
even occasionally it must be either a pretentious bravado or one must be a very
diligent student with exceptional courage.
Empirical data also suggest that absenteeism is the other chronic problem that
hinders the academic performance of children under study. Absenteeism is
dened as a regular and unexplained absence of students from school (Brooks,
1997 as cited in Loraine & Ezenne, 2010: 33). A wide range of complex factors
might cause absenteeism. It can occur without the knowledge of parents and by
some causal factors of the child himself, or herself. It can also occur with the
consent of parents as well. Studies have identied two categories of causes of
absenteeism. They are family- personal factors and school-related factors. The
family- personal category include such factors as low personal and family interest
in education, issues related to livelihood, health issues, socio-economic status
and geography (location). School-related factors include, among others; boredom
with classroom instruction, bullying and peer issues, lack of school support and
protection, bad relations with teachers and school authorities, and an irrelevant
curriculum. (Loraine &Ezenne, 2010: 33; Gupta & Lata, 2014:13)
The large majority of participants of this study are either in the second cycle of
their elementary education, or just 9th grade students. In fact these students, as has
been mentioned earlier, are those who combine schooling with work in the khat
industry. However, the nature of their job, which is demanding, made them miss
out some of their school days entirely, or some of their classes each day. Table
5 above shows the response of participants both in Aweday and Wondo Genet
to a question whether or not they regularly go to school. They were also asked
how many days in a week they miss out if they don’t. 73% of the respondents at
Girma Negash
44
Aweday reported that they miss out 1-3 school days a week, whereas 50% of the
respondents at Wondo Genet reported that it has become a pattern that they do
not to go to school one , or two, or there days a week. In a nutshell, a signicant
number of the respondents are unable to go to school on a regular basis. Indeed,
some of them are absent up to three school- days a week, which means more than
50% of the total number of weekly school days.
Table 5: The rate of absenteeism among those combining work and schooling
No. of days participants
miss out classes
Wondo Genet Aweday
Freq. % Freq. %
0 day per week 32 50.0% 8 26.7
1 day/week 10 15.6% 2 6.7
2 days/week 20 31.3% 19 63.3
3days/week 23.1% 1 3.3
4days/week 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 64 100.0% 30 100
According to the participants of this study, the major reason for their absence
from school is their work in the khat industry. They particularly mention the
difculty to wake up in the morning because of sleepless nights as a cause for
their absence from school. Once again, we have to note that khat markets operate
the whole afternoon and the whole night in the case of Aweday, and until late in
the night in the case of Wondo Genet. Therefore, it is not a matter of surprise that
these children sleep for very few hours in a day. It is also relevant to consider the
performance of the child in the class even in those days he has managed to go
to school. Although a good number of participants are enrolled in schools, the
large majority of them are regular absentees because of the reason stated above.
Needless to elaborate that absenteeism is a serious impediment to academic
performance and intellectual development of the child.
Missing individual classes, either because of coming late to school or leaving
school before the end of classes, is described by experts of the eld in a different
way. For example G. Bond, in his study Tackling Student Absenteeism (2004)
refers to this kind of failure to attend classes in full as “fractional truancy.” By
fractional truancy he meant the condition of students arriving at schools late,
45
or leaving schools early, or missing out individual classes. Both qualitative and
quantitative data collected complement each other in showing that the target
populations in both the two sites have serious problems in these areas as well. A
good proportion of participants are habitual late- comers who are forced to miss
the rst two or three periods in most days of the week. These same children and a
good number of others have the habit of leaving school two or three periods before
the end of the day’s classes. On the basis of Table 6 below it is demonstrable that
only 6.7 % of the respondents at Aweday reported that they are never late to
school, whereas 93.3% of them disclosed that they often come to school late. In
fact, a total of 86.6% miss out the rst two or three periods of the day at least
for 2 days a week and at most for 3 days a week. In Wondo Genet the situation
seems less severe. “Only” 61% of them come to school late in two, or three, or
four days a week. The remaining 39% asserted that they do not have the problem
of late- coming.
Table 6: Late - coming
No. of days/week participants
come to school
Wondo Genet Aweday
freq. % freq. %
0 day per week 25 39.1% 26.7%
1 day per week 12 18.8% 00.0%
2 days per week 18 28.1% 13 43.3%
3days per week 812.5% 13 43.3%
4days per week 11.6% 26.7%
Total 64 100% 30 100.0%
The fundamental reason behind habitual late- coming, as far as children working
in the khat industry are concerned, has an evident linkage with the nature of their
job. If one tries to explain the late- coming problem of these specic groups of
children with laziness to rise up early and to be at school before class begins, it
would be an over simplication of a very complex problem. Group discussion and
face-to- face interviews with participants of this study both at Aweday and Wondo
Genet are full of complaints about the stressful condition of their work that keeps
most of them awake even in post-midnight hours. The persistent struggle of these
students working in the khat industry to suppress their biological need to sleep
Girma Negash
46
for some hours a day is difcult to hide even if one wants to. In one of the high
schools in Wondo Genet, the rst three periods of the morning shift are the high
time of business for the school café crowded with students of the khat industry
who have to eat their breakfast there. And interestingly, it is neither a punishable
wrongdoing nor a reprehensible violation of school regulations.
The other manifestation of the problem of “fractional truancy” is the habit of
leaving the school compound earlier than the ofcial end of the school day. The
study population, no matter how their numbers in the two study sites might vary,
also suffers from this malignant problem. Similarly, the number of days in a week
individual participants leave schools earlier might be at variance with one another.
As can be evidenced form the gures on Table 7 below, a staggering size of the
participants, 90% in Aweday and 71.9% in Wondo Genet, reported that they have
the habit of leaving school earlier than the last period, usually at break time.
Table 7: Leaving school early before end of classes
Response to the question “Do
you leave school early?”
Wondo Genet Aweday
freq. % freq. %
Yes 46 71.9% 27 90%
No 16 25.0% 310%
Unknown 23.1% - -
Total 64 100% 30 100%
Evidence from varying data sources is suggestive that leaving early from school
compounds is a problem for this group of children and its causes are attributable
to their participation in the night time khat trade. Respondents who have reported
that they have this kind of problem pointed out that they do leave schools earlier
than the end of the last period, sometimes with the consent of teachers and school
ofcials. Their stated reason is that they have to be present at the khat market
ahead of time. Although 5:00 pm in the afternoon is the right time for the child
worker to get started with his job, respondents believe that in a competitive
trading atmosphere the earlier is always the better. This has made the out- of-
school ooding of early-leavers to begin earlier in the afternoon, especially after
recess time. At Aweday, there seems to be a tacit understanding, between students
47
rushing to the Magala Jimaa on the one hand and teachers as well as school
ofcials on the other, about the three periods following the afternoon break.
The prevalence of a high dropout rate among the study population, and its impact
on the intellectual development of the group, should have been a subject of
thorough analysis, albeit the lack of substantive data that warrants a solid and
comprehensive conclusion. Yet we can still rely on sources at hand to make some
relevant analysis about the extent of dropping out from school and its impact on
the participants of this study. The data obtained from Wondo Genet Secondary
and Preparatory School is one such data sources used for this purpose21Through
computing the numbers from a registration record taken at the beginning of the
academic year in September and the roster done at the end of the academic year,
we found out that out of 1569 students registered in the academic year 2013/14,
only 1,369 sat for the nal exam at the end of the year which gives a dropout rate
of 200 (12.7%) for that year and that grade level alone.
In the 2014/15 academic year out of 165 students registered at the beginning of
the year, only 97 sat for the nal exam. In fact the number of new 9thgrade students
assigned to this school signicantly dropped down because of the opening of a
new high school in Chuko town and the older one was made to specialize as a
preparatory school in the subsequent years. In any case the dropout rate this time
is 68 (41.2%) which is higher than the previous year. Nevertheless, this data only
helps us to establish the prevalence of students dropping out from school before
the end of the academic year. However, this may not warrant a conclusion that
the cause behind such a dropout rate is students’ participation in khat trading
activities. But it still is indicative of the prevalence of the problem and the level
of its seriousness. Most importantly, however, in as much as some of the students
in this school are students working in the khat industry, as could be learned
from qualitative data, they must have contributed substantively to the rise of the
dropout rate. According to FGD participants, the regularity of their attendance,
and going to school all- year-round are both at risk because of the seasonality and
volatile conditions of the khat business.
Overall, students’ failure to reach a targeted achievement level, either through
premature school leaving [drop-out], or repetition in the same grade, is a failure
which authorities of the eld aptly call ‘educational wastage’(Ekka & Roy, 2014;
21 Grade 9 is the grade in focus and the two academic years we have obtained the data mentioned
above are 2013/14 and 2014/15.
Girma Negash
48
L. Pauli, 1971). In broader perspective it indeed is wastage with implications far
beyond the local level that has to be reckoned with. It is a failed investment for the
nation which provides trained teachers and allocates budget to the school system
at large. The following statement is more laconic about the effect and broader
implications of the drop-out problems and repeating in the same grade.“If a child
leaves the school without completing the primary course or it fails in a class, then
the investment does not give commensurate returns. As such, both the money and
human resources are wasted. This is what we call educational wastage”(Ekka &
Roy, 2014:31).
3.7 Threats to the Physical and Mental Well-being of the Child Worker
The dominant theme in the khat discourse for a considerable time has been
the physical, physiological and psychological harm khat chewing is believed
to engender (Kennedy, 1987: 214-215; Al-hebshi N. and Skaug, 2005: 303).
Although sometimes conicting with one another, there are research ndings
with pages of accounts about the deleterious consequences of khat chewing. Khat
researchers within the medical community have done a lot of work in establishing
the harmful effects of khat on human health. Among the range of diseases and
bodily dysfunctions that khat is reported to have been a cause for are: gastritis,
increased blood pressure, increased respiratory rate, constipation, cancer of the
mouth and stomach, loss of teeth, hallucination, illusion, impotence and a lot
others (Varisco,2004:104; Dechassa, 2001: 96; Amare & Krikorian,1973:375).
In most studies about khat we nd the youth in general to occupy the center stage
and often mentioned as more vulnerable to picking up khat chewing habit in large
numbers. A relevant point to cite here is that some researchers even attributed the
expansion of khat chewing culture among the youth in Ethiopia during the1970s
and 1980s to the Zemecha-“Campaign for Development through Cooperation,
1975-77- in which high school and college students were the main actors (Ezekiel,
2004: 13). Further than this, recent studies and surveys among High school and
college students in Ethiopia reveal that there is a very high prevalence of khat
chewing habit among the youth with two-thirds of the students in between the
ages of 15-22 are frequent users of khat (Ezekiel, 2008: 785).
Notwithstanding with some “positive” attributes, the damaging effect of those
psychoactive ingredients found in khat on the human brain, particularly on
the brain of a young person should be noted here owing to its relevance to the
49
broader discussion at hand. Some recent research ndings suggest that cases of
khat-induced psychosis have become more common in Ethiopia and else where.
Khat may cause a functional psychosis when taken in excess, or by individuals
with a history of psychosis problem. It is also reported that a number of chronic
khat chewers experienced persistent hypnagogic hallucinations or symptoms of
schizophrenia-like psychosis (Hassan, N.A.G.M. et al., 2007: 708). A decade
earlier, Ethiopian researchers had already established that regular and heavy
consumption of khat has the potential to complicate the psychiatric conditions of
a person (Alem, A., & Shibre, T., 1997:138). What is more alarming here, both
as private individuals and as a nation, is the recent epidemiological ndings of
neuroscience research that concluded the adolescent brain is more vulnerable to
the effects of addictive substances than the brain of adults (Lubmanet al., 2007:
792).
The target population of this particular study are children in their teens working in
the khat industry. There are more reasons to believe that their khat- related work,
their workplace and working conditions might induce in them a khat chewing
habit. In connection with their role as wage workers, we have tried to examine
whether or not a child labor situation prevailed in the process. The other issue of
concern elucidated in this study so far has been the extent to which the education
of these children has been affected owing to their participation in the process of
local- level khat marketing and trade. Nonetheless, there is something more: the
high likelihood of those children picking up khat chewing habit and ultimately
turning into regular khat chewers. Work in the khat workshops,” that makes
them spend 6-8 hours a day holding khat either on their palms or on their chest
all the time, is a fact of life for these children. For a young person of their age as
vulnerable and curious as they are, the distance between the chest and the mouth
is such a very short one to put the khat into the mouth.
In addition to this, “khat workshops” are the starting point of the process of khat
commoditization and incidentally the workplace of these children. They are
places stockpiled with an overwhelming quantity of khat and the habit of khat
chewing is not at all a reprehensible behavior among workers therein. Against
such background, therefore, it appears reasonable to state the imminent danger
those children are exposed to, that is turning into habitual khat chewers. One of
the prime concerns of this study has been investigating the interface between
working in the khat industry and being and becoming a habitual khat chewer. A
two dimensional cause-and effect relationship was anticipated. First the original
Girma Negash
50
motif for a child to opt for a job in the khat industry might possibly be an already
formed khat chewing habit. The other alternative is that the child might be
attracted to take a job in the khat industry for reasons related to subsistence and/
or family livelihood. As the latter is addressed in earlier chapters, I would like to
move onto interrogating the data so as to check whether or not their work place
environment is capable of inuencing these children to become habitual khat
chewers.
Focus group participant children in Aweday are almost unanimous in expressing
their situation that it is in the nature of their job to chew khat while working.
According to these children, for a worker in the khat industry, khat chewing is a
norm than an exception. Two issues have come out prominently in regard to the
reasons why those children are enticed to begin friendship with khat and gradually
end up habitual khat chewers. Firstly, almost everyone in the khat industry,
irrespective of a person’s age, chews khat at workplace, and even afterwards.
Respondents rather look at each other with astonishment when asked about the
specic reasons why they chew khat. In short, this implies that khat chewing in
and around khat markets is a normal daily routine regardless of age. The situation
is much the same even outside the connes of the khat market. The khat growing
region of East Hararge, Aweday and its environs included, is particularly prone to
khat chewing. Here khat chewing has got cultural endorsement of the community
and is even used at social events such as wedding and mourning ceremonies.
One can clearly imagine the perception a child who grew in this kind of cultural
environment would have towards khat.
The second very important reason why people in the khat industry, young and old
alike, are regular khat chewers revolves around the widely held belief that khat
chewing increases performance and boosts productivity. Scientic research has
established that khat is a stimulant with psychoactive ingredients, cathinone and
cathine (Kalix, 1992). Indigenous knowledge, in khat producing areas, seems to
have conrmed this and make use of khat as a performance enhancer. Studies
made in khat producing areas reveal that farmers of those areas chew khat in
the morning with the understanding that khat will generate extra energy that
would enhance performance in subsequent agricultural activities and ease the
hardship of farm labor (Eshetu & H/Mariam, 2001: 104; Anderson, et al., 2007:
4). Hararge is one of those khat producing regions where khat is believed to have
those “positive” attributes, adding to its popularity both among producers and
consumers. It should be noted that part of the study group in this research are the
51
products of this culture and this community where khat chewing is not morally
and religiously reprehensible.
In Wondo Genet, however, the reply of respondents to the question whether or
not they chew khat at work place is different from the Aweday respondents. In
most cases their response to the same question is as short as ‘nay.’ The number
of respondents who have the courage to answer in the afrmative is insignicant.
Nevertheless, the reality is different. Other sources sufciently inform that these
children do chew khat while working. For example, my own personal observation
in the “khat workshops” is convincing that for some reason respondents were
timid to tell the truth in this case. Although their ofcial answer is “No,” a good
number of these children chew khat at least at their workplace.22
A relevant question here is that why these children are so timid in speaking about
their khat chewing habits. The answer could be sought from the variations in
the cultures of the two regions. The dominant majority of the population of East
Hararge are followers of Islamic religion where khat chewing constitutes a major
part in worship practices, during prayers, and celebrations of religious holidays
(Ezekiel, 2004, 11).The general picture is that khat chewing is not morally
reprehensible in these communities. The large majority of the population of
Wondo Genet and its environs, however, are Christians belonging to the various
Protestant denominations. According to the tradition of the local Protestant
Churches khat chewing is not only abhorrent but also regarded as a sin. This
accounts for the reason why most khat farmers as well as local people in the khat
business barely chew khat. Even the few, who do, never do it in public. This is
illustrative why my respondents in Wondo Genet are shy to tell the truth about
their khat chewing habits. In sum, children working in the khat industry at both
the two study sites, although their number may vary, are exposed to khat chewing
habits at a tender age because of their involvement and active participation in khat
marketing and trade. They are therefore exposed to all the physical, physiological
and psychological deleterious effects khat chewing might cause.
22 This can best be conrmed by the video footage I was able to shoot at the time of
my eld work. In addition to this, as mentioned above, their teachers recognize those
children involved in khat trading activities, and more importantly those who are regular
khat chewers very well. They told me that they do this with relative ease by observing the
known symptoms on the faces of this group of children.
4 Conclusion and Recommendations
4.1 Conclusion
The most substantial nding of this study which is consistent with the original
hypothesis is that child workers exist and take a major part in the process of khat
transaction and preparation for market in the two major khat assembling centers.
The age distribution of those children working in the khat industry in the selected
sites has also been sorted out which ultimately led us to the conclusion that
children below the minimum working age, according to the Ethiopian law and
international conventions, are involved. The study also identied where exactly
the labor of the child plays an active role in the khat value chain and what distinct
works children often perform.
The study farther investigated the major reasons for those young boys to be
engaged in paid work in the khat industry. Accordingly, the study found out that
most “resident” boys, with the exception of the ‘migrants’ both at Aweday and
Wondo Genet, are driven to the khat industry less by economic factors than by
social and cultural reasons. It can be concluded that ‘family pressure’ or the
insistence of parents, or a close relative, directly or indirectly pushing the boy to
get into the khat business is a crucial reason. A family member, running a khat
business, is frequently cited as the one reason behind a child’s entry into the khat
industry. The study reveals that the rst recruiters of many of the children into the
khat industry are either a father, or an elder brother, or an uncle, or one of their
cousins in the name of assisting the family, or mentoring them in the wisdom
of the khat business. Nevertheless only a handful of these “resident” children
working in the khat industry are the sole bread winners of a family and their
earnings rarely is a lifeline to the children themselves, or to their families.
The most critical issue in this study is the extent to which children’s participation
in khat trading activities affect their education. The study has explored in what
ways did their work in the khat industry affect their education. It also examined
possible hindrances caused by their engagement in khat trading activities that
obstruct their academic performance. The following are some of the consequences
of being a child worker in the khat industry with a direct bearing on the education
of the child:
Girma Negash
54
• The result shows that paid work in the khat industry, which requires
staying very late at night, was a major constraint for those boys. They
could not have sufcient time for rest and study, which ultimately
incapacitates them to concentrate on their education.
• Those who combine schooling and paid work in the khat industry are
suffering from fatigue, drowsiness and frequent yawning in classrooms,
because of lack of adequate night’s sleep, which undoubtedly inhibits
their attention and seriously affect their academic performance.
• As hypothesized at the beginning, this study has found out that, their
night time job in the khat industry greatly contributed to the very high
prevalence of absenteeism among the study population.
• A trend observed among those who combine schooling and work in the
khat industry is the propensity of missing classes and schooldays as a
whole. ‘Fractional truancy’ which is about missing classes, either because
of coming late to school or leaving school before the end of classes,
best characterizes the school attendance of the target population in both
the two study sites. And this study has shown that there is a correlation
between the ‘Fractional truancy’ prevalent among the study population
and the nature of their work which regularly keeps them awake in post-
midnight hours.
• Qualitative data shows that, especially at the prime time of the khat
business in the zones of production, which is from November to January
when the khat business thrives most, a higher attrition rate is reported in
the study sites. However, owing to the fact that this is not a controlled
study it becomes difcult to tell the rate of attrition among the study
population in any precise way. Secondary data regarding attrition
obtained from local schools could only help to establish the existence
of a correlation between working in the khat industry and walkout from
school sometime in the middle of the academic year.
As a signatory of ILO’s Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No.138) and Worst
Forms of Child Labor, 1999 (No. 182) Ethiopia responded by issuing the 2003
Ethiopian Labor Proclamation (No. 377) that xed the age of 14 as a minimum
age for employment (Art.89, 2). The Labor Law unequivocally prohibited ‘young
persons’ from taking part in any ‘hazardous work.’ However, the study found
55
out that a signicant number of boys below the age of 14 are engaged in paid
work in the khat industry in different capacities. It is also indicated in this study
that the lowest age of those child workers in the two study sites goes as low as
8. Therefore, it can be inferred that what is going on in the khat industry is a
transgression of the Ethiopian Labor Law. Nevertheless, cognizant of the fact that
the issue of child labor is extremely contentious, I decided to refer to those boys
participating in the khat industry as working children than child labor. Moreover,
as a researcher, I have to limit myself to investigate and shade light on a hitherto
unknown or under reported situation and be cautious before making allegations
that might have serious legal implications.
It also emerged from this study that the target population are very much exposed
to picking up the habit of regular khat chewing and/or “dependence” at a tender
age because of their khat- related work, their workplace and working conditions.
A more alarming reminder this research would like to underline is that medical
research shows that habitual khat chewing may eventually cause one or the
other type of psychosis; not least the adolescent brain is also reported to be more
vulnerable to the effects of addictive substances than the brain of adults.
4.2 Recommendations: Imagining a Better Future
The study has examined the state of children’s involvement in khat trading
networks both in Eastern and Southern Ethiopia. It has shown the imminence
of a major threat posed by the on-going khat trading practices. We tried to bring
aspects of the trading practices and the role of children in the khat value chain
to the lime light in the hope that authorities Civil Society Organizations, parents
and the public at large will make sense of what is going on around them and act
towards the mitigation of the problem.
The following are some feasible actions largely aimed at mitigating the problem
in a situation where complete ban of the child’s involvement in paid work is not
possible. Two major approaches deem to be quintessential in guiding the wide
variety of actions to be implemented. They are sensitization of local communities
about the khat-born danger on children and local youth; and ways of introducing
necessary regulatory measures.
Girma Negash
56
4.3 Sensitization and Awareness Creation
In as much as family pressure proved to be the dominant factor in driving children
into working in the khat industry it is imperative that parents have a stake and
should play a fundamentally critical role in dealing with the problem. Therefore,
series of platforms aimed at making thorough deliberations, brainstorming and
educating local level stakeholders that these boys are working in the khat industry
risking their health, their education, and overall intellectual development, are
necessary.
Such platforms must engage other local level stakeholders such as Warada
ofcials, education bureau ofcials, khat traders, farmers, teachers etc.
Apart from the above-mentioned local actors, Civil Society Organizations
working at national and local level should play a very active role in the whole
process and work in partnership with local stakeholders from organizing those
platforms to the execution of the intended programs of educating the public.
All the above stakeholders, especially Warada ofcials and parent must be
sensitized that the right to education is a fundamental constitutional and universal
right for the child. Article 28 and 32 of the United Nations “Convention on the
Rights of the Child” (CRC), which Ethiopia ratied on 9 December 1991 should
be considered relevant. Articles 28(1) specify detailed obligations imposed upon
states and parties committed that free education at the primary level is a core
minimum all countries must fulll. Article 36 of the FDRE constitution not
only recognizes the right of the child to education but also prohibits employment
which may be hazardous or harmful to the education of the child. Therefore, this
should be known to all that it is the responsibility of the Ethiopian government as
well as parents themselves to guarantee each child’s right to an education.
Although more research is needed, the results from this one do suggest that
employment at a very young age may have lasting adverse effect/s on adult health,
and that this should be taken into account in the debate about how best to address
the issue of child labor. Given the fact that the age of 14 is the minimum age
limit set by the labor law of Ethiopia, awareness needs to be created in those khat
trading localities about this particular provision and the health hazards intrinsic
to the nature of the job theses children are involved.
57
In the short term, authorities in education bureau, or local schools should be
sensitized that drop-out problems, absenteeism and repeating in the same
grade are all educational wastages that profoundly affect the efciency of the
educational system at large.
We also propose organizing ‘action weeks’ where by parents, government
authorities, Civic Society Organizations and education bureau ofcials and all
other stakeholders meet to deliberate and share ideas on the above-mentioned
issues about the education of children, and none other than that, as a good strategy
that would allow a focused discussion and add urgency to the matter.
4.3.1 Regulatory Measures
Strict observance of the minimum age limit: Proposing a policy response about
child labor or working children is more difcult. For one thing many families
depend on the labor of their children as a means of livelihood. Although it is
less so in the case of our study sites, the contribution of children’s earnings
to household income is important in many developing countries. As has been
exhaustively discussed in the theoretical part of this study, many African cultures
consider children’s work as a mode of social integration, and children should not
be disengaged from participation in both consumption and production. Therefore,
prohibiting children’s participation in the informal or the formal sector, or abruptly
banning child labor from the economy, would not be a feasible solution to the
problem of child labor. But there still is the possibility of putting in place some
sort of regulatory scheme, the most crucial of which will be strict observance
of the minimum age limit, or even renegotiate for a new one if 14 is considered
big.
Against this background, authorities at Regional and Zone level, and other
responsible government ofcial need to devise a legal framework governing
the age-limit of children engaged in khat marketing activities, and follow up its
actual enforcement
This study indisputably established that a sizable number of children working in
the khat industry are ‘migrants’ coming from faraway places to reside and work in
those khat assembling centers. Repatriation of ‘migrant’ children to their locality
of origin is an option to address the current crises of rising crime rate and deaths
from curable diseases caused by poor sanitation and malnutrition. In the long run
too, it helps to reduce the number of ‘migrants’ in those towns and discourage
Girma Negash
58
newcomers. But implementation should learn from past experiences and failures.
An earlier effort to repatriate these ‘migrants’ to their place of family origin failed
to achieve the desired end because of lack of coordination of stakeholders and
efcient organization. Lessons must be learned from the past before embarking
on a future endeavor.
A key consideration for Civil Society Organizations and government institutions
before a future repatriation scheme is to make the process voluntary. The use of
force in a repatriation process will be a detriment than a guarantee for success. A
key to such a project would therefore be lobbying and convincing the will– be-
returnees beforehand.
The marketing system of any product, whether agricultural or industrial, is an
important element in the production equation. It is evident that the existing khat
marketing system has given rise to the involvement of under- aged children in the
khat industry. By doing so it exposed them to exploitation and numerable other
health risks at their tender age. In fact, on previous forums where the issue of khat
was discussed the absence of a policy framework governing the production and
marketing of khat was emphasized. We are now at the point where there should
not be any procrastination to revisit and overhaul the existing khat marketing
system in such a way that it benets both the economy and society.
It is shown that the expansion of schools failed to be a counter check to the rising
number of working children, at least as an alternative option we have to consider
and think about designing school systems compatible to the working condition
and the needs of the children of concern here than pressing them to abandon
either school or paid work, which appears to be a difcult choice.
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