Integrating Hemp in Uttarakhand organic farming systems

Hemp’s high versatility makes it a prime candidate in Uttarakhand organic farming systems. Uttarakhand is the first state in India which has legalised iHemp (Cannabis sativa L) for industrial production. This has provided positive hope to many villagers in rural Uttarakhand as it would ensure increased economic viability for farmers in the face of the falling price of many cereals and would overcome the increased susceptibility of common crops to pest and disease outbreaks. Of additional concern, are the environmental problems resulting from the high inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides within modern agricultural practices. From a commercial point of view, both the crops productivity, as well as the variety of raw materials it produces, put it ahead of many other non-food crop.

For Centuries villagers in Uttarakhand had the knowledge of benefits of hemp as integral fibre of rural sustenance. The art of making hemp products was passed from one generation to another. In spite of such traditional methods of making hemp products however, hemp remains a marginal crop within Uttarakhand agriculture in general, with an especially limited role in the organic community. Due to neglect today hemp industry in Uttarakhand stand at a sad state and the traditional heritage art of hemp production faces danger of extinction.

The way forward:
Present day overproduction of foodstuffs has resulted in the agricultural sector looking for cropping alternatives (Conrad, 1994). This has renewed interest in the once “worshipped” crop. Research into new applications for hemp fibre has begun worldwide. This has brought about the need for Uttarakhand State policies and legislation around ihemp. Authorities in Uttarakhand have the responsibility to ensure that policies in hemp cultivation are made in such a way that they are reasonable, practicable and achievable and so sustain production for this crop.

In the absence of any government policies, it remains quite difficult to obtain figures concerning the numbers of hemp growers in Uttarakhand state as the questions of legality or public perception impedes the availability of such information, nevertheless, we know that very few villagers are engaged in the commercial cultivation of ihemp. Clear distinctions are required as to know what is now legal and what is still under prohibition. Basically the confusion around hemp cultivation needs to be eliminated so not to hinder its return to the Uttarakhand market.

Industrial hemp cultivation requires much monitoring by authority organisations to ensure regulations are adhered to. If the hemp products of Uttarakhand are properly marketed, it can support hemp as an economically viable crop. The licensing requirements in the state should not prevent it from being an additional crop option. The variety restrictions and then also having to maintain the crop until half the seeds are full seems to be unnecessary precautionary regulations applied in many countries.. Add then also the need to reapply for the license each year and having random spot tests of the crop carried out by the authorities may be too imposing on some growers. Too many regulations and overlapping of legislation can have effect of deterring farmers to choose hemp as an alternative crop in their system. This would then hinder the revival of the Uttarakhand hemp industry.

Understanding the Hemp History:

The herbal plant, cannabis, has a long and continuous history in India. The plant has lived in stories of gods and warriors for thousands of years and continues to live today in religious ceremonies and in street stands.

Unlike many other countries that have become infected by what is now known as the American Disease. In India, Medical Cannabis was never outlawed and in fact it is still considered an integrated part of their modern-day Ayurvedic (native to Indian) Medical system. As such all Indian pharmaceutical students,to this day, learn about the properties of and the proper dispensing methods of Cannabis.

To this day Cannabis is still officially recognized in the official Indian government’s pharmacopoeia. According to the [Non-Governmental] Indian Materia Medica,[1] in 1941 Cannabis was recommended for treating many ailments.

Hemp has been an agricultural crop for thousands of years. It was native to India, southern Siberia and China. Hemp is the first plant known to be domestically cultivated. Throughout most of its history it has been heavily relied upon to support the growth and expansion of the human population across the globe in a large and diverse range of uses.

More than 10,000 years ago the Indians were processing hemp fibre for use in ropes. The earliest hemp fabric found dates back to around 8000 BC from ancient Mesopotamia. This makes the textile fibre of hemp as old as pottery and older than records of metal work (Ryan, 1994). The first pulp paper made in China in 105 AD was made of hemp and bark (hempmuseum.org). The oldest printed-paper in existence is made of 100% hemp. Archaeological sites of Ancient Egypt have uncovered concrete made from a hemp base.

It was being cultivated in the Middle East at least since 450BC for fibre, oil and as medicine. Its medicinal and mood-altering properties have been known and used since ancient times. The Indians, Chinese and Ancient Greeks treated a range of physical and psychological illnesses with Cannabis. To gain the effects the leaves were smoked or infused in tea while the nectar from flowers was baked into cakes. It became the most common additive in patent medicines, after alcohol and opium, in Western Europe during the nineteenth century (Ryan, 1994).

It made its way to the rest of Europe and Africa via trade routes becoming known as a very useful and easy to grow plant. Its introduction into Europe occurred about 1000AD. Italy became a major exported of hemp fibre that was used for clothing, tents, sails, linen, drapes, quilts, sheets and towels. By the sixteenth century it had become the most widely cultivated crop in the world (www.viperrecords.com). As the longest and strongest plant fibre known, it demonstrated excellent qualities such as abrasion and rot resistance.

Hemp continually increased its number of applications producing rope, cloth, fuel, paper, paint, food and medicine. Hemp seed oil was the most common lighting oil before 1800. It was also used for in cooking and later, for engine lubrication (Ryan, 1994). In 1619 farmers in America were ordered to trial hemp cultivation. Spanish Royalty imposed mandatory quotas throughout Spain also about the same time (Mignoni, 1999). England ventured along the same path and fines were often given to those who refused to grow it (Herer,1998).

Other fibrous products came into the market after the seventeenth century. Cotton, flax, jute and even silk all were in competition with hemp. The steamship era of the late nineteenth century yet again diminished the demand for hemp (Mignoni, 1999)

The blog is created by Hemant Nav Kumar, Founder, UTF

UTF (U Turn Foundation) has been working with villagers in Uttarakhand since last four years; to assist them in procurement of livelihood through naturally grown & organic crop.

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