HEMP IN NEPAL
The Journal of Industrial Hemp, Vol 12 #2 (2007) is another goldmine of information - contents are in the previous post. Two of the articles are on Nepal, both by the globetrotting hempologist Robert C. Clarke. His latest adventures took him to Kathmandu and from whence the young man went west, to the westernmost district, Darchula. In that region hemp (nena in the Tamang language) is grown at altitudes of 1,500-3,000m. He asserts that Darchula produces the highest quality hemp textiles.
Of interest is the fact that they are able to harvest the crop for resin, seed and textiles - most Western countries are using a single purpose crop. There is also the use of the hurds as torches, so one could say there are four uses made of the plant.
The textile and cordage obtained from the outer bark is also produced locally, with about 3,000 r0lls a year sold on the Kathmandu; it is estimated that the same amount stays in the region.
Clarke notes that legally this is prohibited, and this I was able to confirm in a conversation with Udaya Thapa, a Ghurka who is very active in the hemp industry in Nepal. Thapa noted, however, that wild hemp could be harvested, and this same law applies in the US - with the stipulation that the leaves be fallen off first. The Lakota Indians have worked within the law there and used feral hemp to produce paper, but have had their harvests of hemp destroyed by the US government. The influence of which is very pernicious, and may well be responsible for the law in Nepal which does not differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana.
Somewhat unique to Asian hemp culture is the Darchula practice of beating the stalks to loosen the hurd from the bast. After this the stalks are boiled for an hour, cooled, rinsed in flowing water, beaten, dried and beaten again. The practice of today is not much different than that of 1855, as observed by H.B. Hodgson:
After the plants have been cut off at the ground, they must be placed in the sun for 8-10 days, or until they be dried sufficiently. They must then be steeped in water [retted] for three days, and on the fourth day the plants must be taken out of the water and peeled. The peelings are to be washed and placed in the sun; and when quite dried, they are ready for manipulation. They are then to be torn into threads with the nails of the hands; next twisted with a spinning wheel (tikuli), and when the threads are thus prepared, they are to be boiled with ashes of wood and water in a pot, for four hours, and to be washed again for the purpose of whitening. This is the way of preparing bhangela [sic] thread, out of which blankets are woven.
Nepal's neighbours India and China do grow and have grown hemp. Currently China sells the most and perhaps at the cheapest price. As hemp is in more and more demand, and governments realise that they cannot sustain the water intensive cotton industry anymore, they will be happy to have hemp on hand. Just watch out for any maniacs with Agent Orange in US helicopters.