Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
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 developing and trialing new technologies, and other fibre, medicinal and food crops that can benefit Africa.
What does Invegrow do?
Invegrow is conducting trials with the government through the Ministry of Agriculture and the reports are presented to the office of the President & Cabinet (OPC) by the Department for Agricultural Research Services (DARS). Our research plot is one of a kind and indicates our commitment to research and development since we are trialing many cultivars from around the world. Ultimately Invegrow will focus on extracts, oils, food, construction material and cultivation seed. There are very limited industrial hemp varieties for Southern hemisphere countries.
What is industrial hemp?
Industrial hemp is the variety of Cannabis sativa that is non-psychoactive and can not be smoked. It contains almost no Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is like 'alcohol'. Like chillies, potatoes, or Eucalyptus, there are different varieties of Cannabis and industrial hemp is one of them. It is currently grown in over 40 countries around the world.
An analogy for Malawians is thobwa vs chibuku, where one is alcoholic and the other is not.
Is Industrial hemp the same as marijuana (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 and bred.
The biggest difference is the THC levels and the reason for cultivating it. Marijuana/chamba is grown for recreational, spiritual and medicinal purposes, whereas industrial hemp is mainly grown for food, CBD and industrial applications.
Is there a vernacular name for industrial hemp in Malawi?
Invegrow is spearheading a campaign to develop a local vernacular name for industrial hemp in chichewa to best describe the crop. Since industrial hemp is NOT chamba, we need to find another name.
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 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.
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 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.
So what does the motion 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 presented to Parliament. Once the Bill is accepted then the regulations will be drafted after extensive consultation with local stakeholders.
How would industrial hemp be regulated?
Industrial hemp will be regulated in Malawi, as in other countries around the world. Since it is grown in many 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. The United Kingdom Home Office page has examples of cultivation licence applications.
Is industrial hemp grown elsewhere in the world?
Yes industrial hemp is grown in over 40 countries around the world, with the main producers being China (textiles), Canada (food), Australia (fibre) and Europe (fibre). 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 an estimated 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 thousands 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 as a filler in 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 clothing?
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.
How is hemp used in beauty and cosmetic 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 nutraceutical extract from the flowers. Malawian women actually use the chamba oil in their hair to promote hair growth! 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.
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. 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.
Can industrial 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 to industrial hemp in Malawi?
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.