A FEW months ago, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was among heads of States, ministers, negotiators and climate activists who met in Egypt for an annual gathering on climate action. The annual meeting was running under the theme: Mobilising Private Sector Financing for Climate and Green Growth in Africa.
The meeting was meant to deliver action on an array of issues in tackling the climate problem, among them reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience and adapting to impacts of climate change, delivering on the commitments to finance climate action.
Faced with record greenhouse gas concentrations and unpredictable weather patterns, there is need for action to arrest the situation. Human action and inaction is suicidal. To decarbonise, there is need to adopt regenerative agricultural practices, among them the growing of industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is believed to be an effective plant to sequester carbon from the earth and replenish degraded soils. More so, industrial hemp is a fast-growing plant which does not require pesticides.
Zimbabwe Industrial Hemp Trust chief executive officer Zorodzai Maroveke said the country should take advantage of the ever-growing demand for environmentally-friendly products to grow industrial hemp.
“Zimbabwe should take advantage of the fact that it is endowed with world-class farming expertise and fertile soils to ramp up industrial hemp production. The plant grows without the need for harmful herbicides and pesticides and also replenishes soil quality. Hemp has low carbon emissions and is capable of capturing carbon emissions from the atmosphere, meaning that it is considerably better for the environment compared to other crops such as cotton,” Maroveke said.
Researchers suggest that hemp is twice as effective as trees at absorbing and locking up carbon, with one hectare of hemp reckoned to absorb between eight and 22 tonnes of carbondioxide a year, more than any woodland.
In line with the Zimbabwe is open for business mantra, the new dispensation led by President Mnangagwa opened up space for the production of industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis in 2019.
Hemp is used in the production of plastics, food, cosmetics, textiles, construction, as well as a raw material for the production of industrial and medicinal hemp. Plastics and other non-woven materials made from the hemp plant are sustainable and biodegradable, meaning that these products will not add more to the landfill but would rather decompose over time, and faster than other products.
- Open letter to President Mnangagwa
- Feature: ‘It’s worse right now than under Mugabe’: Sikhala pays the price of opposition in solitary cell
- Masvingo turns down fire tender deal
- Human-wildlife conflict drive African wild dogs to extinction
Zimbabwe has shown steady progress with hemp over the past two years. It amended its laws and removed industrial hemp from the country’s list of dangerous drugs and set the defining line between marijuana and hemp. The psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) limit puts Zimbabwe in the vanguard of nations around the world which have broken with the long-standing convention observed by most countries, which sets the THC limit for hemp at 0,3%.
In line with Statutory Instrument 218 of 2020, the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) has registered 96 industrial hemp players — 18 researchers, 49 cultivators and 29 merchants.
The main difference between industrial hemp and cannabis is on the THC. Hemp has 0,3% or less THC, meaning hemp-derived products do not contain enough THC to create the “high” traditionally associated with cannabis.
The entry of more players in the industrial hemp value chain is likely to see an increase in production, which dovetails with the second republic’s plan to increase agriculture’s contribution to gross domestic product from 12% to 20% by 2030. This drive is also in line with the country’s green revolution.
Since there are no registered seed varieties in Zimbabwe, the government placed a blanket waiver on all those who are registered with AMA to import varieties that are suitable for Zimbabwe and do their trials and experiments locally.
AMA is working with stakeholders to make sure Zimbabwe becomes one of the largest industrial hemp producers in the region, which will allow local farmers to secure a niche market for industrial hemp and related products.
Recently, AMA partnered a Polish company, Plantiqua Hemp to capacitate local farmers to produce quality hemp that will fetch good prices on the international market.
The platform was also meant to create market linkages for hemp farmers. As most of current production is earmarked for export, industrial hemp provides a good opportunity for Zimbabwe to boost its foreign currency earnings.
The Grand View Research estimates that the global industrial hemp market size was US$4,71 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow to US$15,26 billion by 2027, buoyed by huge investment towards production and high demand in hemp-based products. Industrial hemp is used in the automotive, construction, food and beverage, personal care, and textile industries.
Some of the countries in Africa that have legalised the growing of industrial hemp include Ghana, Lesotho, eSwatini, Ethiopia, Morrocco, Rwanda, Malawi, South Africa, Rwanda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. China, Italy, France and Netherlands are some of the top industrial hemp-producing countries in the world.
With the call for green economy getting louder, the demand for environmentally friendly crops such as industrial hemp will always be growing, hence there is no doubt that the plant offers quick wins for farmers who are looking at diversifying their incomes. Hemp also offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to improve its export basket.
As Zimbabwe races towards attaining Vision 2030, industrial hemp could offer Zimbabwe salvation.
Also, Vision 2030 identifies industrial hemp as a crop of interest, saying it has the potential to advance agricultural profitability and rural development.
With an increasing climate problem that has threatened humanity, the growing of industrial hemp could be what the doctor ordered.
- Cliff Chiduku is a communications, public policy and governance expert with interests in agriculture, climate change and environmental issues. He writes in his personal capacity. Feedback: [email protected] or Call/App +263775716517.