Wednesday, 31 May 2006 was the kick-off of a series of meetings on
hemp. Jane Taylor of Positive News brought together a number of people with
an interest in and knowledge of hemp. Tim Nimmo, in whose house the
meeting was held, is currently growing a crop of hemp in Kenya, now six weeks into
its cycle. Tim’s aim is to get hemp integrated into the national economy
and to reduce pollution. As Kenya consumes large quantities of charcoal, the
use of hemp for this would provide a necessary product while reducing the amount of deforestation currently taking place in the pursuit of wood for charcoal.
The hemp plant, however, provides much more valuable products than
charcoal, so he is looking into harvesting hemp for seed and possibly fibre as
In his area sisal is a major crop, with 43,000 acres under cultivation.
As the price of sisal has been falling lately due to competition from synthetic fibres, the sisal plantation owners have been also looking into hemp as an alternative crop. Sisal has at times been referred to as hemp, but is a very different plant altogether, being a perennial monocot, mainly suited to arid regions; hemp is an annual dicot, usually harvested in 90-100 days.
One concern with growing hemp in many parts of Kenya is irrigation.
This issue and others will be studied by Tim, who is taking back to Kenya a
copy of The Cultivation of Hemp by Dr. Ivan Bocsa and Michael Karus.
As the issue of raising hemp in Africa was one of the main themes at
the summit, it was appropriate to have Chris Sanders of the Cannabis
Coalition (UK) on hand. Chris has been developing an idea of promoting a hemp aid
event, having spent the last year researching the legality of hemp
cultivation in Africa. It appears that many countries do not allow this
plant or are unwilling to discuss it. It is known that hemp for
marijuana is grown in many places, thus it would stand to reason that hemp as an
industrial plant could also be grown.
There have been field trials conducted by the government of South Africa
some years ago, but their interest seems to have dwindled. Chris found
that they had purchased a number of German machines for processing hemp,
but that the present whereabouts of these machines are unknown.
Marc Deeley and Sam Heslop both wrote theses on hemp and the environment
in the late 1990s, and they were able to contribute much in the way of
figures relative to hemp’s ecological value. Part of the plan in cultivating
hemp in Africa is a carbon neutrality payment, for which there needs to be
information about the amount of carbon and carbon dioxide that hemp
takes from the atmosphere.
Vedora, a farmer from Uganda, spoke on the feasibility of growing hemp
in that nation, where he has been given access to 300 square miles of land
near Lake Victoria. He discussed the possible uses of hemp in his part of
the world. Like Tim, he saw it as a supplier of charcoal, and had already
in his possession a mobile device for converting cellulose to charcoal. A
discussion of the sale of the other parts of the plant included seed
and oil, with the cake from the pressing most likely being used to feed
It was advised that he peel the outer bark for paper pulp, a
possibility in his case as he is near a large paper mill. While it may not process
100% hemp pulp, it may well be that a hemp blend could be developed. With a
ready market for this in the West, he could create an export. It was
mentioned that elephants do not eat hemp, a positive factor for African farmers
as these creatures do quite a lot of harm to other crops.
From the advertising world Simon Gargette sat in, taking notes with a
view to the promotion of hemp events in the future. Carlo and Rebekita, also
involved in public relations projects, came along with much the same
purpose. Their expertise will be needed in the creation of events and
awareness. Most of the speakers are from or reside in the UK, and so a
discussion of Hempcore and its policies was much to be expected.
Basically, this company has the monopoly on seed sales in the UK, where
individuals must obtain a Home Office licence in order to grow hemp. Hempcore
provides just over a dozen approved varieties of seeds, but there is demand for
varieties not on the list. As this was not of immediate use to Tim or
Vedora, the issue of procuring seeds turned to international seedbanks,
with Kenyon Gibson giving information on where to acquire seed. Much is
currently produced in the Soviet Union and the Ukraine, but there is a new firm,
Ecofibres, in Australia, which is working on seed varieties; being
closer to Africa in climate, they may be more inclined to produce drought
resistant varieties. Also present was Joe Mellen, a long-time ecological
activist, and Cindy Mackintosh, a co-author with Kenyon of the historical monograph,
Hemp for Victory: History and Qualities of the World’s Most Useful Plant. (She and her husaband Nick have helped this work along over the years and have made its publication possible by forming Whitaker Publishing).
While this information comes just as Hemp for Victory rolls off the
press, it will not be included in that work, but is certainly a chapter in
hemp history. Hemp projects in Africa are especially welcome, and any
information relative to hemp farming on that continent and/or hemp
cultivation in arid lands would be welcome. The next meeting is
tentatively scheduled for 28 June, 2006 in London, the exact venue TBD.
For further information on Hemp Aid/Hemp in Africa please contact
Kenyon Gibson at: firstname.lastname@example.org