By Hobbs Gama, African Eye News Service
Blantyre, Malawi – Malawi’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture wants to see hemp replace tobacco as the country’s main export crop. Joe Manduwa, himself a commercial farmer, raised the issue in Parliament this week. He said hemp was a flexible crop used for industrial textiles, paper, foods and cosmetics, and did not require pesticides or herbicides.
“We are talking about a non narcotic herb, not for smoking but other important uses that can earn this country a lot of foreign exchange.”
“This is happening in other countries that have already taken the first strides in this direction,” said Manduwa, a member of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF).
Manduwa’s initiative anticipates tobacco coming under increasing pressure from the anti smoking lobby mounted by the World Health Organization.
He earlier proposed to the House that since tobacco earned 75% of Malawi’s for ex, and contributed 35 percent to the gross domestic product, there was an urgent need to look for an alternative cash earner.
Malawi is leading the fight against the anti-smoking lobby with other African tobacco growing countries—South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Hemp has been a primary industrial crop for at least 800 years, and in the Eastern Cape of South Africa a new “Rope, not Dope” scheme is expected to create thousands of jobs.
The project received a R1,1 million grant from the SA Department of Agriculture, with support from Australia and international hemp processing companies. The opposition Malawi Congress Party is supporting Manduwa’s move.
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