Zimbabwe Abandons Food for Cannabis Farming
31 March 2024
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Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Shift: A Balancing Act Between Hemp and Food Security

In an ambitious move that marks a significant shift in its agricultural focus, Zimbabwe has registered over sixty entities in the hemp production, trade, and research sectors since the legal green light in 2018. Managed by the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA), this initiative signals a new era for Zimbabwe’s economy, which has historically been rooted in food production. However, this pivot towards industrial hemp cultivation—while promising—ignites concerns over the potential impacts on the nation’s food security, challenging the agricultural legacy celebrated since the 1975 UN World Book records highlighted Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) as having the fastest-growing crop economy.

Hemp, known for its low psychoactive properties and wide range of industrial applications, including textiles and biofuels, represents a significant export opportunity for Zimbabwe. To date, the nation has exported over 8,000 tonnes to countries such as Poland, Switzerland, and Germany. AMA agribusiness director, Mr. Jonathan Mukuruba, is optimistic about this new agricultural venture. “The future of industrial hemp in Zimbabwe looks very promising… with a growing interest in the sector, Zimbabwe is on track to emerge as a regional leader in industrial hemp production,” Mukuruba noted, highlighting the economic potential of this crop.

Despite the promising outlook, the move raises important questions about the allocation of agricultural resources. Zimbabwe’s foray into hemp cultivation could mean diverting land and water resources traditionally used for food crops, potentially impacting the nation’s food security. Critics of the shift argue that while industrial hemp offers economic benefits, prioritizing it over food crops could compromise Zimbabwe’s ability to feed its population.

The partnership with Plantiqua Hemp, a Polish company aiming to enhance the quality and marketability of Zimbabwean hemp, underscores the international interest in Zimbabwe’s hemp industry. This collaboration aims to “increase production and productivity,” according to Mukuruba, by connecting local farmers with global markets.

However, the enthusiasm for hemp’s economic prospects is tempered by concerns for food production. “The challenge lies in balancing the cultivation of crops for industrial purposes with the imperative to ensure food security,” stated Dr. Frank Magama, CEO of Kutsaga Research Station, which is conducting research to identify hemp varieties suitable for Zimbabwe. Magama emphasizes the need for a strategic approach: “As we explore the potential of hemp, we must also consider our longstanding tradition of food production and the critical importance of maintaining food security.”

This transition towards industrial hemp production presents Zimbabwe with a complex challenge: how to harness the economic potential of this new crop while safeguarding its food security and agricultural legacy. As the nation moves forward, the words of Mukuruba and Magama highlight the delicate balance Zimbabwe must navigate, blending innovation with tradition in its agricultural practices.- State Media