Special to The Hemp Report:
Draft Proposal - Afghanistan in the 21 st Century: sowing the seeds of
sustainable development, Spirit Aid
Click here to download. (PDF file 1.1MB)
The solution to Afghanistan's opium?
By Marc Deeley, Development worker, Spirit Aid
Earlier this year the head of the United Nations drugs control agency said efforts to tackle Afghanistan's growing drugs trade were failing. The UK-based development agency Spirit Aid offers a radical solution to the problem.
During the 1990s, five or six provinces in Afghanistan were cultivating opium poppy.
Since the fall of the Taleban, that number has increased to 28 out of 32 regions. That is a major factor in worsening violence this year as people struggle to survive and fight for control of this illegal, socially damaging but lucrative resource.
Afghan farmers produce opium that is sold for some $2.3bn, according to United Nations estimates.
Its value is vastly inflated beyond that by the time it reaches its western consumers.
Despite this, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest places on Earth.
Collectively the farmers receive less than half a per cent of the wealth generated by their illegal crops. Much of the revenue ends up with local militias.
The organisation I work for, Spirit Aid, has developed a plan to replace Afghan opium - 75% of the global supply - with industrial hemp.
Hemp is a fast growing, legal cash crop that presents a host of immediate benefits to Afghan society, including a potentially lucrative source of foreign exchange earnings.
Hemp can be used to produce heating and cooking fuel, thereby ending the need for people to cut down and burn their remaining forests during severe winters.
Using hemp in this way would also help prepare areas of land for future tree planting projects.
It is part of the same family as cannabis, and the leaves of the two are indistinguishable.
But there are other benefits to cultivating hemp.
At the moment many Afghan children are malnourished. Hemp produces a fruit boasting the nutritional qualities of soya, oily fish and wheat combined.
Hemp can produce quantities of wood equivalent to four times that of trees over a similar period of time. This biomass can be used in the production of clean, renewable energy, biodegradable plastics and building composites.
Hemp is currently being grown for these purposes in 36 countries around the world, including Canada and some European Union countries.
If hemp could be successfully introduced in Afghanistan we believe that:
- Those who depend on the 90,000 hectares of land dedicated to opium poppies in Afghanistan would instead be able to cultivate industrial hemp to provide heating, shelter, food and would have an alternative source of revenue.
- Communities in the West would no longer be flooded with cheap heroin in this supply-driven industry.
- The world would become a cleaner, healthier and more secure place as the need to cut down old growth forests and burn the remaining oil, coal and gas reserves is reduced.
Industrial hemp is perhaps the only economically and environmentally viable alternative to opium cultivation in Afghanistan.
It presents an opportunity to satisfy the immediate fuel, fibre and monetary requirements of two million farming households struggling to survive in one of the most dangerous countries on earth.
Hemp cultivation also presents a unique opportunity for environmental improvement in Afghanistan.
Crucially the international community has a moral obligation to prevent a Colombian-style "war on drugs" from taking hold in Afghanistan because if this happens we can be certain the violence, and supply of opium, will never end.
Copyright © 2004 Marc Deeley. First published by the BBC News
on November 16, 2004. Posted on The Hemp Report by permission.
For more on Marc Deeley please see
: Cannabis: an environmentally and economically viable method for climate change mitigation
(revised 2001), The Hemp Report, Summer 2001.
Royal Agricultural Fair Includes Hemp in New Food Exhibit
At this year's Royal Agricultural Winter Fair there is a new section named 'Food to Your Good Health!' The Teacher Resource Kit from the Royal describes, "Food to Your Good Health! was created to address the health issues many Canadians, young and old are facing. Smart choices are key to a healthy lifestyle that keeps you looking good and feeling great. The food value chain begins with farmers who grow wholesome quality food. Researchers in the agri-food industry are discovering new nutritional and health benefits from foods, leading to new value-added products designed to enhance our health." Selected organizations and companies for this section include: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Subway, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, Ambrosia Apples, Nestle and Hempola Valley Farms.
"We are delighted to be part of this major new section at the Royal," comments Greg Herriott, president of Hempola, "the reaction thus far has been excellent." According to industry experts, Canada has taken a global leadership role in the research, development and manufacturing of hemp food products. The Hempola display is set up with a country flare. Complete with natural arbour, huge plank harvest table and a unique log picnic table for visitors, it's like a warm little park within the fair. The design earned Hempola first prize for Organic Commercial Display. "We just received the award yesterday afternoon," states Herriott, "it was enough to simply be part of 'Royal.' Our entire company is putting a huge effort into this and we're very delighted to receive such recognition."
The Hempola product representation is impressive too: Omega 3 salad dressings, high protein pancakes, Omega 3 and protein brownies, gluten free and protein rich flour, Omega rich cold pressed oil; as well as skin care products… Hempola hand made moisturizing cream, popular West a-Nile-ate insect repellant and lip balm made famous at the American Music Awards. Hempola's primary mandate at the Royal is, as Herriott terms it, "try it, you'll like it." If you visit the booth, chances are you'll be treated to a few of their samples. "We're serving Hempola pancakes in the morning until 1 pm, then our brownies, and later on, our Omega 3 salad dressings." To round the Hempola program out, the company makes a presentation to the public every day at 11:30 in the 'Royal Education Ring.' The presentation is titled, 'The Wonders of Hemp.' The Teacher Resource Kit describes the talk, "Hemp - its botanical name: cannabis sativa, is one of Canada's newest crops… commercially grown since 1998. Yet, it is one of Canada's oldest crops… cultivated as early as the 1600's by Huron natives in the Georgian Bay areas. Learn about this plant… its history, its uses today as well as its potential for the future in Canada's agricultural community."
Also within the Hempola display are products made by other companies which Hempola supplies their ingredients to: a new beer named C'est What Homegrown Hemp Ale and an about-to-be-launched pet and equine nutrition line, called NuHemp. This interesting new concept includes products for dogs, cats and horses, designed to boost health, all containing hemp as the mainstay ingredient. Herriott describes, "hemp food is a nutrition powerhouse. On the one hand you have the highest concentration of Omega 3, 6 and 9 'good fats' and on the other hand you have an incredible protein and dietary fibre source that's gluten free. It tastes great… nutty, but with no allergies. And the real 'home run' is the vitamin E in hemp. It's not only a health benefit, it keeps these products fresh for months. It's only a matter of time until the Nestles of the world also discover the 'Wonders of Hemp'."
For more information contact Kelly Smith at 416-587-1446.
On the Web:
Royal Agricultural Fair November 5-14, 2004:
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, National Trade Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.