Is narcotic khat funding terrorism?

Story highlights

Khat is plant that once chewed gives a mellow high to its consumer

It's been consumed for centuries by people in the Horn of Africa and parts of the Middle East

Farmers in Kenya have been hit by a Dutch ban on imports of khat

Some analysts say there are purported links between the khat trade and terrorist funding

CNN  — 

It’s an oval-shaped, bitter tasting leaf that makes you chatty after chewing it, while inducing a feeling of euphoria and alertness.

The East African plant khat, a mild narcotic, has been chewed for centuries by people in the Horn of Africa and parts of the Middle East for its stimulating effects. The green leaf is central to cultural and social activities for many communities across the area and key to the economic survival of thousands of khat farmers who grow it legally.

In recent years, high demand for the herbal stimulant by the Somali diaspora – despite it being illegal in several western countries, including the U.S. – has helped open up a booming industry in fertile parts of Kenya, such as the Meru county.

But now the livelihood of these farmers is under threat after the Netherlands, which has a vibrant Somali community and is a key khat hub to other European countries, announced a ban on all imports of the plant in January.

Until now, the Netherlands and Britain were the only major European countries allowing the trade and consumption of the flowering shrub.