Marijuana: The Congo's new cash crop

Before he started growing weed, Congolese planter Koti spent his days digging holes and tunnels, mining for morsels of gold. He would smoke weed — or bangi as he calls it — to overcome his fear of the darkness that he faced underground.

As a teen, he saw a tunnel collapse, trapping five fellow miners — only one was rescued. “It’s dangerous,” says Koti, of the illegal minerals trade that many eastern Congolese families depend on. “People were dying.”

The tragedy frightened him, but with no other source of income, he was back at the mine the next day. Then, in 2007, a foreign mining company kicked Koti and the other small-time miners off the land. With no other job, he bought cannabis seeds from a neighbor, planted them and, six months later, harvested a crop of cannabis that measured in the kilos. “I had no other job,” says Koti,...

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