[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 09:39 GMT
Somali widow turns to khat trade
By Mohamed Olad Hassan
BBC News, Mogadishu

Amina Haji Mumin's husband was killed by a stray bullet during inter-clan clashes in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, five years ago.

Amina Haji Mumin
Widow Amina Haji Mumin sells khat to support her five children

He was the sole breadwinner of the family and after his death, Ms Mumin was left without an income.

At first her relatives would help, providing food for her family, but after some time they stopped making payments.

As times became harder she started selling khat, a mild stimulant that is banned in many countries.

Gunfights and bandits

Ms Mumin, 35, uses most of what she earns from the trade to purchase food for her five children and pay rent.

She concedes that selling khat in Mogadishu is at times very dangerous and exhausting.

The demands of the trade also keep her away from her children, since she has to work long hours at her kiosk.
Men spend all the money they get to purchase khat regardless of the needs of their children and wives - and the thought of this makes me feel guilty
Amina Haji Mumin

Most Khat traders in Mogadishu are women and many are widows.

Safety is a big concern, since most of their customers are rogue militiamen, most of whom are addicted to khat. Gunfights at the market have, on occasion, been caused by a row over the stimulant - especially when supplies are scarce.

A lot of khat sold at the market in Mogadishu is imported from Kenya.

On some occasions the women have lost their supplies and money to gunmen.

"Once they stole my khat and money," Ms Mumin said. "They threatened to kill me and my driver with pistols unless we gave them all we had and surrendered the minibus we drove in."

Market forces

When Islamists banned the sale and consumption of khat, whilst they ran Mogadishu during the second-half of last year, her life was shattered.

"I felt as if my whole life and that of my family had again been destroyed," she said.

But business went back to normal when government forces backed by Ethiopia ended the Islamists' rule.

Amina Haji Mumin

Trading in Khat is often a big gamble; sometimes profits are high, other times you lose out.

"Customers like their khat fresh and the latest batch to arrive from Kenya is always in great demand," Ms Mumin said.

"When you are selling stock flown in from the morning and other business men bring fresh supplies in the afternoon you lose out in the competition."

And with the interim government stepping into the trade, small-scale dealers such as Ms Mumin fear they may be thrown out of business if taxes are imposed.

Ms Mumin hopes to leave the khat trade. She feels guilty because she knows her business may have a negative impact on other families in Mogadishu.

"Men spend all the money they get to purchase khat regardless of the needs of their children and wives," she said.

"And the thought of this makes me feel guilty of what I do."

She also hopes to remarry, so she can devote more time to looking after her children.

Somalis learn to follow the law
01 Nov 06 |  Africa
Somali viewpoints
18 Jan 07 |  Have Your Say
Khat concerns debated at meeting
26 Sep 06 |  Bristol/Somerset
Wife killer gets life sentence
17 Jan 07 |  London

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific