Cannabis Production In Africa Could Help Local Communities While Rewarding Investors

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After centuries of different roles, cannabis is poised to take on a new and important purpose in Africa.

The cannabis plant was probably introduced by early Arab or Indian Hindu traders and became an important subsistence crop along with tobacco.

The plant has been long been used on the continent for fiber, rope, medicine, as well as religious and recreational purposes. Smoking pipes uncovered in Ethiopia and carbon-dated to around 1320 showed traces of cannabis.

However, colonial governments outlawed cannabis across Africa by about 1920, creating the illegal cultivation, markets and criminal penalties found globally.

That’s changing now as Uruguay and Canada lead the way with legalization, along with more liberal attitudes towards cannabis use in some U.S. states, Spain, Portugal and other countries. In fact, marijuana was the most widely used drug around the world in 2017, with an estimated 188 million consumers, according to the UN’s 2019 World Drug Report. (Some observers, believe that figure is on the low side.)

It all adds to the view that greater cannabis use and cultivation in the western world spells social and economic opportunities for struggling local communities throughout Africa. There’s growing evidence that high production overheads associated with western climates and labor costs are making the continent more attractive to international producers.

Countries located closer to the equator have some of the best cannabis growing conditions. They enjoy long days of sunshine and ideal growing temperatures in a natural environment that yields healthy, high-quality product, not dependent on energy-intensive warehouse facilities.

As a result, the cannabis plant could soon be the ultimate cash crop to boost rural regions in countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda and Malawi. Cultivation, processing, packing and shipping are seen as ways to create many jobs in places with high unemployment or underemployment. One producer reports over 200,000 farmers harvesting pharmaceutical cannabis out of the DRC on over 100,000 hectares of land.

Reputable cannabis growers also offer women the same working conditions and equal pay opportunities as men. And for many African women, a job in the industry represents their first independent source of cash income.

Drilling boreholes, to support cannabis cultivation provides local communities access to clean water, while the creation of irrigation systems enables the growth of other cash crops and food. Cannabis operations create additional economic spinoffs when companies buy, hire and train local.

Among the new breed of producers is Vancouver-based EXMceuticals, which is taking the social responsibility model one step further. The company is donating 2% of its gross revenues from local cannabis operations to a Community Development Fund for local improvements and education opportunities.

According to CEO Jonathan Summers, “this approach adds up to a to successful partnership between traditional and western cultures, plus a seamless harmony between the crop, the people and the land.”

Companies that share this vision express the hope that cannabis production in the “wounded continent” will help reverse the negative impacts of Africa’s natural and man-made disasters by improving living and environmental conditions.

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