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Opinions of Saturday, 13 February 2010

Columnist: Teacher Baffour

Industrializing Ghana through Hemp Production

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In most of the world the male-sexed plant, Cannabis sativa is grown as a source of biomass with a variety of uses.
While the female-sexed plant is well known for its psychoactive effects in Humans, the psychoactive agent in the male-sexed plant is nearly undetectable.

As of 2008, United States Federal statutes forbid the cultivation of any plant in the Cannabis genus for any purpose within the Borders of the United States or her possessions.

As many as thirty different plant species have Cannabis-like characteristics as it relates to cellulose density per unit volume. Like Hemp, these species are actively cultivated in most of the rest of the world, but commercial cultivation is forbidden in the United States despite the absence of psychoactive agents.

These species include: Musa textilis, Agave sisalana, Furcraea gigantea, Phormium tenax, Crotalaria juncea, Corchorus capsularis, Apocynum cannabinum, & Sansevieria cylindrica. Interestingly, the cultivation of Humulus lupulus, a member of the same Cannabaceae family as Cannabis is not forbidden in the United States, presumably because of its usefulness in the brewing process of ales.

Chemical composition of Industrial Hemp as compared to other plant matter

Cellulose Hemi cellulose Lignin
Hemp 64.8 % 7.7% 4.3 %
Wheat Straw 34% 27.6% 18%
Switchgrass 32.5% 26.4% 17.8%
Rice Straw 32.1% 24.0% 12.5%
Corn 28% 28% 11%

Hemp seeds and oil have been part of the human diet in Asia and Europe for at least 5,000 years. In China and in other hemp growing areas in Asia, hemp seeds remain as traditional foods.

Yet, worldwide the currently largest use of hemp seeds is as feed for birds and fish.

In Europe and North America hemp seeds for food were rediscovered in the mid 1990s – concurrently with the reintroduction of hemp as a technical fibre crop. Since then, several studies have confirmed the high nutritional quality of hemp seeds and their products.

Hundreds of such products are now available in stores and on the Internet, annual market growth is consistently more than 15 %. Today, the combined annual hemp seed production in Canada and Europe is more than 20,000 tonnes – and growing.
Clinical studies on actual health benefits from eating hemp foods are still rare.

Yet, their findings and the known nutritional composition of hemp seeds promises various health benefits, as part of a balanced diet.

African Governments can introduce hemp seeds as a modern food staple crop and for the commercial materials made from them: cold pressed oil, shelled seeds (or hemp nuts), flour and protein powder.

Typical Nutritional Composition of Shelled Hemp Seeds (per 100 gram)

Energy content: 580 kcal (2,430 kJ) Fat: 45 g

Protein: 35 g Total Carbohydrate: 8 g (Fibre: 6 g)

Ash: 6 g

Selected Minerals and Vitamins (in percent of daily value, DV):

Phosphorus: 130 % Magnesium: 150 %

Manganese: 450 % Iron: 90 %

Zinc: 60 % Vit B1 (thiamine): 90 %
Vit B3 (niacine): 30 % Vit B5 (panthotenic acid): 90 %
Vit E (tocopherol): 20 %

Fatty acid composition of Hemp Oil:-
Unsaturated fatty acids: ~ 90 %
Oleic acid (18:1 omega-9): 10 – 15 %
Linoleic acid (18:2 omega-6, essential): 55 – 60 %
Alpha-linolenic acid (18:3 omega-3, essential): 17 – 20 %
Gamma-linolenic acid (18:3 omega-6): 2 – 4 %
Stearidonic acid (18:4 omega-3): 0.5 – 2 %
Saturated fatty acids ~10%
Today’s hemp oil is typically cold pressed gourmet oil from mature, well-dried seeds. Its most unique nutritional feature is the “almost perfect” balance of the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids plus the presence of two “higher” omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, stearidonic acid (SDA) and gamma linoleic acid (GLA).
These offer known health benefits and are found in only a few other vegetable oils – yet nowhere as balanced and tasty as in hemp oil.
A gross imbalance in the omega-3/6 ratio in the Western diet is now considered an important contributor to the high occurrence of inflammatory, cardiovascular, skin and even mental disorders.
As a balanced source of these fatty acids, hemp oil and seeds can help reduce their occurrence, in good taste.
Hemp seeds and the seed cake flour contain a high quality protein. It is easily digestible, and contains all essential amino acids in a balanced ratio that satisfies the protein needs of adults.
Commercially available protein flour and powders are high in protein and dietary fibre. They are used in shakes and smoothies, as well as for baking.
Minerals, Vitamins and other Micronutrients
Hemps seeds, nuts and flour also offer a bonanza of micronutrients that are often lacking in our diet. These hemp seed materials are good or even excellent sources of magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc and potassium – and of several B1, B3 and B5 vitamins.
Hemp seeds also contain significant amounts of phytosterols and of tocopherols, i.e. members of the Vitamin E complex.
Overall, the nutritional richness and culinary versatility of hemp seeds and their products make them an excellent basis for a healthy diet and a range of food products.
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The development of the hemp industry in America can be traced from the time of the Puritans, who noted it grew "twice so high" . The industry was stimulated by legislation in Virginia in 1619 ordering farmers to grow hemp. Massachusetts followed in 1631 and Connecticut in 1632.
During shortages in Virginia between 1763 and 1767 you could even be jailed for not growing it! Hemp was legal tender from 1631 till the early 1800¹s so as to encourage its cultivation; the colonists could even pay their taxes with it! By 1850 there were 8,327 hemp plantations (of a minimum size of 2,000 acres).
The situation was similar in other parts of the world. In 1533, Tudor King Henry VIII imposed a stiff fine for not growing hemp with Queen Elizabeth I licensing agents by Letters Patent to form drug squads "in reverse" in 1563. , whilst Russia was the worlds¹ largest exporter and major supplier to the British Navy from 1740 to 1800.
Hemp was vital to the British Empire, as it underpinned its naval power till the age of steamships.
Between 1851 and 1855, the UK imported about 245,000 tons of hemp in addition to domestic production. It is unsurprising therefore that the suitability of the new Australian colonies for hemp was considered early on.
In 1845, Francis Campbell, a notable academic of the day, conducted small scale experiments. From this he determined that the loamy soils of the river flats from the Hunter River to Grafton provided an ideal climate. Cultivation continued in NSW until the mid 1890¹s at least.
Hemp¹s importance had diminished in England by the beginning of the 19th century: following the decline of local independence and the destruction of the village economy, which resulted from enclosures of the common lands, engrossing of farms and the rising power of manufacture and centres of capital Unable to take advantage of industrial scale processes, it left its mark on the landscape with names like Hempstead and Hempnall, reflecting village life and industry that were intimately related to hemp cultivation. This is common in American place names also.
The labour intensive hemp industry suffered throughout the world in the early 1900¹s as the newly mechanised cotton industry, synthetic products and cheaper Asian imports of inferior fibres undermined it. The introduction of decorticators capable of harvesting, stripping and separating the fibre from the pulp promised to overcome this however. By 1937, the hemp industry was undergoing a resurgence following mechanisation, with acreage planted to hemp, having doubled every year since 1930.
That year, against the wishes and advice of the American Medical Association and others, it was effectively banned in America, with the introduction of the prohibitive $100/oz Marijuana Transfer Tax Act (HR 6906).

Recent developments in the hemp industry have occurred in Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, Germany, China & India.
Hemp is among the oldest industries on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years to the beginnings of pottery.
Over 600,000 acres of hemp grow worldwide today. Over 8,500 acres were grown in Canada in 2008.
In the face of opposition by politicians who fear booming production will fuel the supply of illegal drugs, entrepreneurs in China, Europe and the U.S. are pushing hemp as an ideal raw material for a wide variety of manufactured goods.
Proponents cite it as a fast-growing, high-quality source of paper products that could offset ravenous demand for the world's dwindling timber supplies.
An Australian firm, Wavelite Express, uses hemp as a substitute for fiberglass in surfboards. Adidas has experimented with hemp shoes. German and British companies make hemp candy, beer and energy bars. Even hemp-seed oil is used for lubrication, cooking and cosmetics.
In five years, says hemp advocates Michael Rich, the industry could be worth $1 billion.
The 2002 figures for global hemp sales were US$250 million. With the US alone accounting for $150 million.
The Hemp Industries Association is confident that the total North American hemp food and body care market in 2008 accounted for at least $100 million in retail sales. In 2005-2008, hemp food sales have averaged 47% annual growth, making hemp one of the fastest-growing natural food categories.
In China Nowadays, hemp is being revived by environmental activists -- they appreciate its ability to thrive with little water or fertilizer -- and the fashionmeisters, many of whom tout it as better than cotton. "Hemp is a marvelous material," says a spokesman for Armani. "It's cool in the summer and warm in winter." The only problem: limited supplies of sufficient quality.
That may be changing. "Traditionally, hemp has been considered a rough material, the kind of thing you would only use in backpacks or for hippie shorts," says Douglas Mignola, owner of Amsterdam's Hempworks, one of Europe's biggest hemp apparel makers. "China changed all that and revolutionized the industry."
The key is a patented process, developed by Chinese scientists more than a decade ago, that uses a variety of washes and acid treatments to produce a cloth as soft as cotton but with five times the strength.
The procedure might have gone nowhere were it not for Rich. Working in Amsterdam to help expand the market for hemp oil, the American was surfing the Internet when he came upon a citation for Chinese scientists who won an award for textile innovation.
Rich set about commercializing his find. Using his Amsterdam-based Naturetex International as a vehicle, he formed a joint venture with mainland partners. They converted an underused cotton factory into the Dongping Hemp Mill. It employs over 2,000 and can churn out five million square meters of hemp fabric a year.
When the mill reopened in January, Dongping citizens held a parade and stretched banners across streets. "Welcome to our partners in cannabis production," stated one.
And therein lays the crux of the hempsters' PR problem: It is hard to convince the anti-drug forces that hemp really is harmless because it contains minute traces of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance that gets people high.
The "neo-liberal" and "neo-classical" approaches typify "conventional" development and considers only development of the economy, measured in terms of Gross Domestic Product.
Others are critical of such a definition as it ignores structural processes of "underdevelopment". The "free" market is not value free and is predicated on "African" nations supplying raw materials at the lowest possible cost.
Western development is thus historically based on inversely proportional underdevelopment of African nations and "spending our own ecological capital".
The African Debt crisis is a powerful force shaping the policies of multi-lateral and bilateral financial assistance to entire countries and regions.
Much of this assistance is dependant upon the country concerned undergoing a structural adjustment program - leading to the phenomenon known as "adjustment poverty" as the physical quality of life for most citizens declines along with the natural resource base, as economies are "liberalised" and markets opened to the competitive global economy.
Most African nations are advised to concentrate upon what they do best - in most cases, providing raw materials. These are quickly exploited and exported in the name of growth and development, repatriated to foreign processing plants and re exported to its final end use and landfill destination.
Thus tropical forests disappear from African nations, as they disappeared from Europe, America and Australia¹s lands during their industrialisation and subsequent "development".
This assault on nature has continued, with complete disregard for any ecological functions these natural resources play. Despite the vulnerability to the whims of global commodity markets inherent in any export-orientated strategy, many nations are "locked in" to following that pattern.
Previous attempts to "opt out" such as Tanzania Ujaama strategy have failed to work. It is certainly not desirable to many for economic, strategic and geo-political reasons. A new synthesis is needed, where nations become more self-reliant through sustainable developments in Africa.
Cotton needs major inputs of chemicals and irrigation. If replaced with cannabis we could increase output, whilst decreasing the volume of irrigation and chemicals required. The environmental advantage over cotton and other fibre crops is clear.
Cannabis can be grown without pesticides, herbicides, and with reduced fertiliser inputs. The use of these agro-chemicals is not only expensive in economic terms, but damaging ecologically, both in the production processes, transportation, storage and handling, and to the ecology of an area.
Cannabis requires less water than cotton, when grown as a fibre. Hemp is suited to rotations as it is an annual and could be could be alley-cropped with leguminous trees or shrubs providing windbreaks. It replenishes and reconditions soil (by root binding) and preventing soil erosion.
Harvesting is less destructive than timber, and would take the pressure off native old-growth forest and wildlife habitat. Similarly, degraded agricultural lands could be revitalised through a new rural industry and damage to aquatic ecosystems (from agro-chemical runoff feeding algal blooms), would be reduced.
Cannabis grown for industrial purposes can be recycled completely with no waste. The roots can be left in the ground to aerate, bind and condition the soil and keep weeds out. Its outer bark or bast fibre is used in fabric, cordage or best quality paper making, whilst the inner hurds, are useful for pulp paper production, building materials or as feedstocks for biodegradable plastics, PVC plumbing pipes or other products. Its seeds are useful for many products ranging from paints, heating, lighting or lubricating oils, pharmaceutical products, feeds (animal or human).
Even the sap, rich in silicates, can be utilised for production of abrasives. Any by-products of particular industrial processes could be fermented and used to make ethanol and used as a part of a CHP (combined heat and power) system that could be used to generate power regionally, or on-farm. Biodegradable plastics from cannabis-derived cellulose have many advantages over conventional hydrocarbon based plastics.
Based on a non-renewable feedstock, pollution is inherent in their total life cycle, not only in the production. Problems of pollution, landfill saturation and collateral damage to wildlife are ubiquitous, and inevitable side-effects of petroleum based plastics.
Our Agric based economy is vital in terms of ecologically sustainable development in Africa. Cannabis could save our forests, reduce pollution at source, stimulate rural economies and benefit farmers. It could provide relief to millions of sufferers of medical conditions and provide clean eco-friendly paper, fuels and building materials.
The question is why we in Africa have continued to allow a hypocritical, unworkable and expensive prohibition against recreational use of this plant, to continue denying us all of its other benefits?
Related Videos:-
Data accessed from:-
Adams, J.T., (ed), Album of American History, (1944), C. Scribner¹s Sons, NY.
Aitken. D., & Mikuriya, T.H., The Forgotten Medicine, in The Ecologist, (1980), Vol.10, Nos. 8/9.
Amicus Journal, National Resources Defence Council, Summer 1992,
Australian Democrats, Legalise Hemp: Democrats, Press Release, 7/11/94. Adelaide, S.A.
Basso, F. & C. Ruggerio, Influence of Nitrogen Fertilisation and Harvesting Time on the Production of Fibre and Cellulose by Cultivars and Hybrids of Hemp, Cellulosa Carta., Vol.27, no. 3, March, 1976,.
Becietti, R., & N. Ciarelli, Variation in the Content of Cellulose During the Vegetative Period of Hemp, Cellulosa carta, Vol.27, no. 3, March, 1976,.
Birrenbach, J., A Report on the Use of Cannabis Hemp as a Source of Raw Materials in the Production of Paper: American Grown Hemp Can Supply our Paper Needs, (1994), Institute For Hemp, , USA.
Bosia, A., New Raw Materials for Paper: Mechanical Pulp from Hurds (Woody Core of Hemp)Papel, Vol.36, Mar.1975.
Bosia. A., & D. Nisi, Complete Utilisation of Hemp through Alkali-Oxygen & Chemi-Mechanical Processes, Preprints 17th EUCEPA Conference, Vienna, Oct, (1977).
Brown, L.R. (ed), State of the World Reports, 1987-1994, Worldwatch Institute, W.W. Norton & Co. N. Y. & London.
Brown, L.R. The New World Order, in State of the World Report, 1991: Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Towards a Sustainable Society, (1991), W.W. Norton & Co. N. Y. & London.
USA HIA (Hemp Association)
EIHA European Industrial Hemp Association

Compilation by Teacher Baffour

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