The history of hemp cultivation in Africa is a long and complex one. Archaeological evidence suggests that hemp has been cultivated on the continent for centuries, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that it began to be grown as a drug crop. Today, hemp is illegal to grow in South Africa, but permits are available from the Department of Health of the Drug Control Council. In North Africa, hemp was grown as a marginal crop in the early 20th century, but four companies have since received licenses to grow cannabis for medical purposes.
In Zimbabwe, hemp production could eventually replace tobacco as one of the country's main sources of foreign exchange. Hemp is a versatile crop with many uses. It can be used to make building materials, clothing, paper and even batteries. The hemp plant can reach up to nine meters in height, but when cultivated it typically grows between two and four meters. If harvested for fiber, early harvesting will result in poor fiber yield and a late harvest on coarse-fiber.
Hemp is cultivated in many countries around the world, including China, Canada, Russia, the United States and several European countries. The main root of hemp can penetrate deep into the soil, but lateral roots are primarily responsible for absorbing nutrients, water and oxygen. The growth of widely spaced hemp plants is impressive, but the production of liber fiber in these plants is relatively low and the separation of fibers is difficult due to the presence of branches. The common method of harvesting hemp for seeds is to cut it by hand, but it can also be harvested mechanically. Hemp grows best when supplied with moisture during the growing season and especially in its early stages of growth or during the first six weeks of growth. Hemp has a low THC content and therefore cannot be used as a drug.
However, it has many other uses and could potentially replace tobacco as one of Zimbabwe's main sources of foreign exchange. Hemp cultivation has a long history in Africa and is still being used today for medical purposes. With proper regulation and licensing, hemp could become an important part of African agriculture.