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Who is Invegrow?

Invegrow was established by a group of individuals living in Malawi who are passionate about industrial hemp and what it can do for the country and our continent. We are a Malawian company that aims to establish this new industry that can compliment tobacco and other cash and food crops. We have been lobbying since 2014 and our project is under the auspices of the Office of the President & Cabinet (OPC). We are also looking to trial and introduce other fibre and food crops and new technologies that can benefit Africa.

What does Invegrow do?

Invegrow is conducting trials with the government through the Ministry of Agriculture and each report is presented to OPC by Department for Agricultural research Services (DARS). Our research plot is one of a kind and indicates our commitment to research and development. It has an irrigation and piping, storehouse, a great labour and management team, and is trialling around 10 different cultivars from around the world. Ultimately Invegrow will focus on oils, food, construction and seed since there seem to be very limited industrial hemp varieties for countries in the Southern hemisphere.

What is industrial hemp?

Industrial hemp is the variety of Cannabis sativa that is non-psychoactive and can not be smoked. Like chillies, potatoes, or blue-gums, there are different varieties of Cannabis and industrial hemp is one of these. It is currently grown on 40 countries around the world.

The reason it has no effect if you try to smoke it, is because it contains almost no Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). We liken this to ‘alcohol’ and marijuana contains high levels of THC that makes you high.  An analogy for Malawians is thobwa vs chibuku, where one is alcoholic and the other is not.

Hemp has been traded for centuries and is one of the oldest crops known to man. It has only been illegal since the 1930’s due to its rivalry with cotton and synthetics, where its enemies associated it with its cousin crop marijuana. It’s strong fibre formed important parts of navy fleets, making ropes and sails and military grad e uniforms. Its seed makes very nutritious food and medicinal products.

Is it marijuana or 'chamba'?

No, industrial hemp is not chamba. They are from the same family of Cannabis but they are different varieties. Like different types of cassava, chillies and potatoes. They look similar but there are major physiological differences and these can be learned.

The biggest difference is the THC levels and why it is grown. Chamba is grown for recreational, spiritual and medicinal purposes, whereas industrial hemp is mainly grown for food and industrial purposes.If you tried to smoke industrial hemp you would not feel anything.

Is there a chichewa name for industrial hemp?

Invegrow is spearheading a campaign to develop a local vernacular name for industrial hemp in chichewa to best describe the crop. Since industrial hemo is NOT chamba, we need to find another name.

Check out the facebook page and see the options presented. Feel free to email us some ideas ahead of the campaign starting in January 17!

Can we smoke industrial hemp?

There is no point- you can try and smoke it but you won’t feel anything. It is like drinking a non-alcoholic beer.

Is industrial hemp legal yet in Malawi?

It is NOT yet legal to cultivate industrial hemp in Malawi. The motion was passed in Parliament to review the laws and to distinguish industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana. THC levels will be a defining factor. Furthermore, products made from industrial hemp do not contain THC and there are thousands of value added hemp products already on the market worldwide.

More Questions

When will industrial hemp be legalised?

The motion to establish industrial hemp as a new cash crop, distinct from other Cannabis varieties, was passed in parliament in June 2016 and paved the way for further discussion and a draft bill to be presented in 2017. The aim is to have this passed and defined by June 2017 and commercial cultivation in 2018. Industrial hemp requires value addition as you are not just selling leaves (as with tobacco). Any business model and farmer will need to consider this and what their market is.

What does the motion that was passed in Parliament mean?

The motion being passed in Parliament means that industrial hemp can now be discussed by the Parliamentary Committees and a definition and regulations established. However, first the trials conducted by Invegrow must be finished and a draft bill should be presented to Parliament. Once the Bill is accepted then the regulations will be drafted after extensive consultation with local stakeholders.

How should industrial hemp be regulated?

Industrial hemp will be regulated in Malawi, as in other countries around the world. Since it is grown in 40 countries, there is plenty of existing legislation to draw from. If commercialised, farmers will be vetted by the relevant ministry regulating industrial hemp and background checks will be done. The farms will be identified by GPS and will be monitored frequently by police. See the United Kingdom Home Office page for examples of cultivation licence applications.

Is industrial hemp grown in other countries?

Yes industrial hemp is grown in around 40 countries around the world, with the main producers being China (textiles), Canada (food), Australia (fibre) and Europe (fibre and cultivated 20,000ha in 2015). Malawi stands to benefit from industrial hemp since it is an agricultural country with much expertise in this area,land and resources, and is centrally located for exports.

What products can be made from industrial hemp?

Industrial hemp produces around 50,000 upstream and downstream products in food, cosmetics, construction materials, medicines, clothing and plastics. It produces a seed (or nut) that expels nutritious oil rich in Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, and the seed cake is high in a very digestible protein that is consumed worldwide for its health benefits. The flowers produce high value oils with excellent medicinal benefits. The stalk produces a very strong bast fibre that can be used for clothing and military grade fabric. The remaining ‘hurd’ is used in construction and to make bio-composites, a substitute for plastics.

One crop can produce housing, food, medicines and clothing!

How is hemp used in construction?

Industrial hemp is being used right now in construction, forming a replacement for bricks and insulation material, and creating substitutes for timber products. There are hundreds of homes and buildings being made from hemp all over the world. For hemp ‘bricks’, the hurd/ woody core, is chipped and mixed with a lime -based binder and used to fill up the walls. The hurd can also make a block board type material, insulation, animal bedding, amongst many other value- added products. See www.hemporium.com for pictures of their hemp houses in South Africa.

How is hemp used in clothes?

Textiles require a very high- grade fibre from the very strong bast fibre on the outside of the stalk. The agronomy to make hemp fibre is different to that of seed and flowers in that it requires a higher planting density and shorter growing time in the field. The retting process is key to making the fibre soft, yet strong. The Chinese are experts at this industry and Invegrow is importing high-grade hemp textile from China to make clothing in Malawi using local tailors and fashion designers. Check out our shop, coming soon to Lilongwe.

How is hemp used in beauty products?

Industrial hemp has been used for centuries in beauty products and there are two types of oil that can be used. The hemp seed oil is expelled from the seed and the high value oil from the flowers. Malawian women actually use the chamba oil in their hair to promote hair growth! But the hemp seed oil is used in famous brands all over the world, such as Body Shop. It is used in creams, body butters, shampoos, face washes, body washes, and hair products, amongst others.

What are hemp cosmetics?

Hemp seed oil from industrial hemp also has many beneficial properties making skin soft and nourishes it due to the omega fatty acids. It can help with aging and rehydrating the skin. Since the skin is an organ, it is highly sensitive to internal and external factors and hemp seed oil can be ingested and used topically.

Invegrow is starting its own cosmetic range using hemp seed oil that will be included in its shop.

Can we eat hemp foods?

Industrial hemp foods are very nutritious and are not harmful to health because they do not contain anything toxic. The seed is a nutty oil that is expelled and used for food and cosmetics as explained previously. The seed oil is rich in omega 3 & 6 fatty acids that is essential for brain development and nourishes the skin, hair and nails. The seed-cake can be refined into a very high protein powder on par with soya.

Visit Hemp Food Australia or Manitoba Harvest for more information on hemp foods.

Can hemp negatively affect the environment?

Industrial hemp is a very environmentally- friendly crop using around a third less fertilizer and water than other cash crops. It produces much of the same products as trees that take between 20 and 50 years to grow and can be used for some commercial purpose after just 4 months. It is said that 1acre of hemp can equal the equivalent product of 4 acres of trees and grows in a much shorter time! It takes less land and can be grown, like bamboo, around polluted water catchment areas and actually cleanses the water. Substituting hemp for forests would eliminate erosion of topsoil, protect wildlife and help reduce pollution of lakes and rivers.

Are there markets for industrial hemp products?

The markets for hemp products are in the hundreds of millions since one crop can produce so many value added products. It really depends on the level of investment and the processing. In 2015, the US hemp retail market was around $570 million and the Hemp foods and body care products achieved a 10.4% growth (Hemp Industries Association). The CBD and pharmaceutical products are adding many more millions onto this amount and Africa remains largely untapped.

Can we value- add locally to hemp?

Yes, we absolutely must value- add.  You do not just sell the leaf as with tobacco. A farmer can sell the seed or stalk to a contracted buyer, but then the raw material must be processed into something further.

Invegrow’s commitment is to see as much of the wealth and income coming back to Malawi as possible. Some of the products will be for export, but we want to see hemp final products being used and made locally. Import substitution is also very important and therefore we want to see value addition from other Malawians companies that can help stimulate the local economy too.