Hemp, hemp hooray…

Does this simple plant that has over 50 000 uses have the solutions to resource depletion, low housing, fuel, food security and nutrition?

It was just 80 years ago that hemp was hijacked out of its role as an abundant, multi faceted resource and in its place the world turned to timber, fossil fuels and chemical products to serve the building, agricultural and mobility needs of mankind. Synthetic housing, food, medication, plastics and clothing became the norm and anything ‘alternative’ was viewed with scepticism as if natural solutions were somehow inferior to the manufactured chemicals.

Today this once demonised plant is making a resurgence and for good reason.

Tony Budden - South Africa's hemp hero shows what a hempcrete brick looks like.

Tony Budden – South Africa’s hemp hero shows what a hempcrete brick looks like.

Over-consumption, resource depletion, food security; the adverse nutritional impacts of poverty and the depletion and pollution of fresh water sources are critical issues facing the world today. At the end of this year world leaders will meet for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris to negotiate a new climate change deal and discuss how to set in place plans for a global agreement that will enable the world to rebalance itself and adapt to climate change. As part of this monumental event the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) will be launched by the United Nation’s Foundation to bring the world to a focal point and ask all citizens, corporations and governments to make a stand once and for all to eradicate the global social, environmental and economic problems.

The SDG’s have been developed after world-wide surveys asked ordinary people what they believed to be the most critical issues facing humanity. The goals are geared towards interventions that will eradicate poverty, improve education, access to water and food, health and well being; preservation of biodiversity and the creation of safer living environments that are inclusive and energy secure.

In South Africa lack of access to water has led to massive unrest and in poverty stricken areas crime, malnutrition and gender inequality prevent social upliftment and effective education. The global conversation that the SDG’s will initiate will be an interesting one because there are solutions to many of the problems; they are however being hampered by outdated legislation, slow political movement to address change and big agricultural, pharmaceutical and fossil fuel interests are still calling the shots.

It is time to acknowledge the ‘alternatives’ that can provide solutions and hemp is one of them. This plant offers humans a plethora of resources that are sustainable and renewable and its extraordinary benefits could provide a very interesting, profitable opportunity for South African agriculture, social development, food security, nutrition, health care and job creation.

Hemp has been in agricultural history for over 5900 years. The once entirely sustainable, pesticide free and low water use plant was outlawed in the 1930’s after a nefarious PR campaign hijacked the discourse and turned the non psychoactive hemp plant into a drug that was likely to cause the dissolution of society. In fact there are no cannabinoids in industrial hemp and therefore not a chance you will get high. But it wasn’t about drugs; it was about protecting the interests of the investors in oil, timber (paper), petrochemicals and plastics. These were the new industries and the misappropriation of public interest and health and wellbeing of the environment began.

Hemp has a myriad benefits for the needs of a growing population. The fibre makes excellent building materials; the seeds provide nutrition and oils that are some of the most nutritious forms of plant protein on the planet. It grows fast (crop within four months) and can be easily harvested and processed into the various forms human beings need the most. It provides building materials that create safe, warm homes with walls that ‘breathe’ and are entirely fire proof.

hemp-yarn-1471139-1920x1440Hemp can also be used to make fuel, fabrics, clothing, furniture, medicine, paper and bio-plastics. It is a more effective carbon soak than pine trees (used to make paper) and is pest, drought and weed resistant. You don’t need oceans of pesticides and chemicals or modified seeds. The plant takes care of itself and produces high yields that beneficiate the land.

Crops like corn, wheat, rice, cotton and soy use more water and require more chemical interventions which damages the soil, biodiversity of the land and impacts the nutritional value of the food. The surge in food and chemical allergies are being blamed on the use of these chemicals and the synthetic manipulation of the food chain. More and more research is proving the links between lack of nutritious food and the ability to learn which has long term implications for childhood development.

China is the world’s biggest cultivator of hemp with no less than thirty other countries that produce the crop as well. In Canada and Australia there is a thriving hemp industry supporting hundreds of farmers and product developers. Growing hemp is good for the soil, air and water and its by products provides abundant, sustainable solutions for building, health care and employment. In South Africa, Tony Budden is the hemp hero who is working with government on research to show how effective this resource can be on a social, economic and environmental scale.

Growing hemp in South Africa is still illegal but a ground breaking constitutional case against the outmoded legislation will be tabled in March 2016 that could be the final lobby to encourage policy makers to enable hemp to be grown on as wide a scale as possible.

Although the plant can’t be grown here there are many products available to consumers who seek essentials for their home and body care and want to be healthy and chemical free. You will be using a product that is good for the earth and for you and supporting a new wave of farmers who have seen the future and it is green.

Did you know:

A hectare of Hemp, which reaches maturity in 90 days, captures approximately ten times as much CO2 as a hectare of Pine trees which take 20 years to reach maturity.

1 acre of hemp produces 400 percent more fibre than Genetically Modified Cotton, saves 200 mega litres of water and is able to provide essential amino acids and protein for nutrition. No pesticides or herbicides or fertiliser is required.

H.E.M.P

Help Eradicate Mass Poverty

Some interesting facts about hemp:

-Hemp features in 4000 year old hieroglyphics

-In ancient China it was used for fibre, medicine and paper

-The Guttenberg bible ( the first printed bible) was printed on hemp paper which is why pristine copies still exist today

-The first three American presidents were hemp farmers and the American declaration of Independence was hand written on hemp paper

-Henry Ford built a hemp car that was 20 percent lighter than its steel counterpart and ran on hemp fuel

-Hemp powder is pure protein power and is used in ice-cream, snack bars and super foods.

-1533 King Henry 8th issued a royal proclamation which imposed a fine on any farmer that did not use some of his land for growing hemp to supply the King’s Navy.

Benefits of building with Hemp:

-Hempcrete is non – toxic and filters toxins from the air because the walls literally ‘breathe’

-Hempcrete is made with the wood-like part of the plant that’s combined with lime and water. The hempcrete brick is an excellent insulator, is flexible and because it adapts to temperature creates homes of superior comfort and quality no matter the size.

-Completely recyclable, sustainable resource

-Fast growing Hemp absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere enabling it to be a carbon neutral building method

-Hemp oil based wood treatments outperform chemical products

-Hempcrete can be built around wooden frames.

-Fireproof – consider the implications for saving on monthly household insurance and as a material that could transform informal settlements housing

Products available in South Africa www.hemporium.co.za