Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hemp Farming in Africa: A Billion Dollar Industry?

[Dar es Salaam, Tanzania]
ARE you kidding me? A billion dollars? Read for yourself...courtesy of Jack Herer, hemp expert extraordinaire:

February 1938: Popular Mechanics Magazine:


February 1928: Mechanical Engineering Magazine:


Well, if you've been sleeping in a cave for a good half century, you'd probably never realize that mankind has been blessed with a plant of magnificent (almost magical) proportions. A plant that can do almost everything (food, medicine, skin care, building materials, clothing, industrial composites, natural herbicide/fertilizer, and tons more cool stuff) except fix your kitchen sink and babysit the kids.

In a sense, hemp is like the Chameleon Creature in the The Mighty Hercules cartoon series, which I used to watch religiously during breakfast time before heading off to public school in Ottawa, Canada. Oh alright, I watched it a bit in high school too. Boy, the Chameleon was an amazing foe. He could instantly change into a bird, another person, a snake, a tree, a giant blob monster - anything - in order to evade capture or to battle Hercules. I always dreamt of having such "chameleonic" powers. Oh well, dreams like that only materialize in movies on the idiot box (TV), eh?

$how me the money
So, how good is hemp as a potential income earner for farmers here in Africa? Well, take a peek on Jack's thoughts:

"As you will see in these articles, the newly mechanized cannabis hemp industry was in its infancy, but well on its way to making cannabis America's largest agricultural crop. And in light of subsequent developments (e.g. biomass energy technology, building materials, etc.), we now know that hemp is the world's most important ecological resource and therefore, potentially our planet's single largest industry.

The Popular Mechanics article was the very first time in American history that the term "billion-dollar"* was ever applied to any U.S. agricultural crop!

*Equivalent to $40-$80 billion now.

Experts today conservatively estimate that, once fully restored in America, hemp industries will generate $500 billion to a trillion dollars per year, and will save the planet and civilization from fossil fuels and their derivatives - and from deforestation!

If Harry Anslinger, DuPont, Hearst and their paid-for (know it or not, then as now) politicians had not outlawed hemp - under the pretext of marijuana (see Chapter 4, "Last Days of Legal Cannabis") - and suppressed hemp knowledge from our schools, researchers and even scientists, the glowing predictions in these articles would already have come true by now - and more benefits than anyone could then envision - as new technologies and uses continue to develop." {source}

My Thoughts
Okay, all I want to say is that I sincerely hope government leaders here in Africa are much more sensible (and less corrupt) than their counterparts in the USA who have made hemp illegal to grow for purely political reasons. Heck, they've even passed these ridiculous policies on to other naive nations trying to earn favours (usually access to US markets, or financial aid). This is in order to protect some very big and powerful corporations (Archer Daniels Midland, Dupont, the entire pharmaceutical industry, the toxic cotton industry, among others) as billions of dollars in profits and shareholder equity are at stake. You don't believe me? Well take a peek at this:

"A further crisis for Hemp arose in America during the 1930's due to propaganda created from companies with vested interest from the new petroleum based synthetic textile companies and the large and powerful newspaper / lumber barons who saw Hemp as the biggest threat to their businesses. Traditionally, Hemp was processed by hand which was very labour intensive and costly, not lending itself towards modern commercial production. In 1917 American George W. Schlichten patented a new machine for separating the fibre from the internal woody core ('Hurds') reducing labour costs by a factor of 100 and increasing fibre yield by a factor of 60. Mr Schlichten and his machines disappeared, not surprisingly!" {source}
Well, thank goodness there are countries such as Canada, France, Russia, Norway, Holland, China and many others whose governments are led by individuals with a different political agenda. If you look at that list, you'll also notice that said nations were not "suckered" into sending their troops to Iraq with all of that faulty (and expensive) so-called intelligence. So it appears that there is some sanity in this world after all. :-) But I'll leave it to Uncle Nick to show you how much insanity exists right before our very eyes. Once again, here's further proof of the hypocrisy of the US government when hemp enters the scene:

"During the Second World War the supplies of Hemp from the East were being cut off so American farmers were encouraged to grow Hemp for military use (webbing, canvas etc.) under the banner of "Hemp For Victory". After the war, licences were subsequently revoked, at a similar time to the last Hemp crops being grown in the U.K." {source}

In closing, I suggest that farmers here in Africa should seriously consider the possibility of growing hemp. Period. This would create excellent opportunities to use it domestically while also earning valuable foreign exchange since it has, literally, thousands of industrial uses. You see, the plant is like a damn chameleon. :-)

Oh, I know who hemp reminds me of: Michael Jordan. Besides, his great high-flying offensive basketball skills, MJ will probably go down as the greatest defensive player ever. He used to shut down the best players from the opposing team night in, night out. In addition, he was a great passer, shooter, ball handler and rebounder. He simply did it all - just like hemp. :-)

By the way, don't forget the numerous jobs that would be created to support the hemp industry along with the knowledge that the environment is getting a big friendly boost. One other thing. It's no secret that certain agricultural products (cotton, sugar, etc.) are not bringing in the profit margins for farmers that was guaranteed in the past.
"According to the government's Annual Vulnerability Monitoring Report 2005, cotton prices have fallen steadily over the past few years as a result of international competition and last year's price for cotton was about 33 percent lower than the previous year. A similar fate has befallen the sugar industry. The European Union plans to slash its price to suppliers in African, Caribbean and Pacific Least Developing Countries by 37 percent from the start of 2007 to bring it in line with the global price, causing the profits of Swazi producers to shrink significantly." {source}
Now, according to Lufto Dlamini (Swazi Minister for Enterprise and Employment), "in hemp we have an alternative to cotton, which has let us down badly over the last few years." {source} This is yet more food for thought, and a sign that some government leaders in Africa are starting to see hemp's true potential. Right now, this is probably one of the best win-win business opportunities on the planet and, perhaps, in the history of the world.

Go hemp go! :-)

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Anonymous said...

Hi Max. This is a great blog. I was talking about the benefits of hemp farming to some friends in Rwanda 2 months ago when I was in Kigali. It does have huge potential and Africa is perfect for such a crop. Make sure it is legal to grow first. Good luck.

- Thomas H.

jewel said...

This was fascinating. I know it, hempseed protein, is a popular addition to the diet among the raw food enthusiasts but this is alot more information than I had ever expected. There is a company in Maine who makes cordage from HEMP as well. Nice coverage!

hemp-pro said...

hemp will soon become popular again in here in the US if the lawmakers in north dakota pass the legislation to grow hemp. i hate what my country has become and we need to take back control of our government from neocons.

Max The IT pro said...

Although this is an old article on Wired Magazine, it's still a great read. It shows how much potential hemp has over here since conscious buyers are now seeing GREEN.

Rise of The Neo-Greens
By: Wired Magazine (Issue 14.05 - May 2006)
In February 2005, during the hoopla of Fashion Week in New York, a phalanx of models strolled down a catwalk wearing hemp/silk gowns, organic-wool dresses, and bustiers made from recycled polyester. FutureFashion, as the show was called, was something of a coming-out party for the green aesthetic movement.

Eco-chic is now sprawling across the cultural terrain. Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, recently teamed with of-the-moment denim designer Rogan Gregory to create a clothing line called Edun (that's nude spelled backward). Edun produces fair-trade T-shirts, jeans, and organic-cotton sweatshirts sold at high-end department stores like Nordstrom and Saks. Gregory's been busy; he also colaunched Loomstate, which makes organic-cotton jeans that sell at Barney's for about $165. Meantime, clothing and accessories made out of obviously recycled materials - everything from newspapers and phone books to old inner tubes - are showing up on the runway and on the street. Upscale greentailers from Brooklyn's 3R Living to Green Loop outside Portland, Oregon, have sprouted like organic mushrooms after a sun shower to sell fashion and furniture to people with thick wallets and guilty consciences.

The surging popularity of organic material - fibers grown without pesticides or herbicides - demonstrates that the neo-greens want to know the source of what they buy. They associate organics with not just healthy eating but low-impact, earth-friendly, sustainable farming. For a generation of shoppers, the certified-organic label has become a Garanimals tag for grown-ups. According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic clothing were projected to reach $88 million in 2004 - up 30 percent in two years. [Read more...]

Max The IT pro said...

Great news!! I found another amazing crop that would be great for sub-Saharan Africa. It's called Jatropha. Many many thanks go out to Breanna Lattimore (Forest Conservation - University of Toronto; Environmental & Developmental Studies - Queens University; Environmental Consultant/BioEnergy Research Associate) for pointing out the remarkable benefits of this incredible plant (er whatever!).
Here's what she told me via the Alternative Energy Sources group @

Me (Max): "Brenna, how effective is your solution for a place like Africa?? Also, how does it compare to using hemp for biofuel?"

Breanna: "...The short answer to your question: The angle I come at with bioenergy from forest resources is a cautionary one - my job is to come up with criteria and indicators for sustainable development (ecological, social and economic) of the resource and educate people on the potential issues to look out for. That being said, there are some sustainable opportunities, and one that I'm particularly interested in is community-run jatropha plantations in Africa. Jatropha's a hardy, oil-bearing shrub (I guess it's a shrub...) that can actually be used to reclaim wastelands/reverse desertification. So these shrubs, which are great for bioenergy, can be planted on lands where nothing else can be planted in and around communities in Africa that suffer from shortages of fuelwood. The plant is very oily, as well, and can be converted to bio oil. So while some plantations, like palm oil in Indonesia are ecological and social nightmares, small-scale jatropha plantations used to reclaim degraded land around communities who lack fuel sources in Africa could be an ecological and social blessing. If small bio-oil conversion plants could be developed, that would also be great because it would provide a fuel source for healhier cookstoves. It would also offer more employment. I'd like to see more development of technology to be used in the home to improve air quality, because in so many homes straight wood-burning without proper ventilation is causing huge problems, particularly to women who spend much of their time indoors cooking. Basically, I'm very optimistic about possibilities for Africa, and I'd love to see more effort into the expansion of projects with communities, where communities are in control and opportunities are maximized for community members...

...For most regions in Africa, particularly those experiencing soil degradation and threats of desertification, I think jatropha's a better option than hemp because it revitalizes soil, it grows well under those conditions, and it's better for biodiversity than hemp. I think hemp requires more intensive management as well, although it's one of the more hardy herbaceous crops that can be used for energy. I'm not sure if there would be benefits of intercropping hemp and jatropha in Africa (and whether or not they'd complement eachother) but it might be worth looking into..."


Stay tuned as I plan to put up some more insightful info on Jatropha in a separate post.

Kate said...

Hi there, I have an animal and environmentally friendly footwear label in South Africa and am trying to locate hemp grown locally in S.A. or in Africa. So far I have had no luck!!! Does anyone have any connections if so please could you e-mail me on Thanks, Kate, g-mo Footwear

Anonymous said...


Madison County woman allowed to grow hemp

Montana's News Station

October 27, 2009

A woman from Madison County has been issued Montana's first license to grow hemp.

Back in 2001, Montana's legislature voted to allow the commercial cultivation of hemp, but federal law still prohibits such activity.

Hemp is similar to illegal marijuana but without the mind-altering ingredient of the drug.

The issuing of the state's first license for an industrial hemp-growing operation sets up a possible test case of whether the Drug Enforcement Administration is willing to override the state law.

Officials say the license went to a woman who wants to grow hemp on 160 acres in Madison County.

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