Monday, July 22, 2024

COP 26—can’t see the hemp for the trees?

plea for governments to remember hemp when they try to tackle the global problem of deforestation has been issued by the British Hemp Alliance’s MD, Rebekah Shaman.

While welcoming the pledge by more than 100 world leaders, representing over 85% of the world’s forests, to commit to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030, Ms Shaman argues in her statement that “one of the best agricultural crops that can support governments to stop illegal deforestation by 2030 is hemp. But the UK government is still unable to recognise this essential crop, as a viable solution to deforestation and climate change.”

Ms Shaman continues, “In many areas tree-planting—no matter how well-intentioned this is—will not help communities meet their immediate economic needs, nor will it prevent run-off, the drainage of soil nutrients past the root systems, or indeed the increasing salinity of dry land areas.

“Tree-planting is also costly and requires a thorough environmental assessment of the land intended for planting, including a detailed evaluation of the type of trees to be used and subsequent, long-term management of this land.

“The benefits of tree-planting also take many years before they can be realised economically, so it is not an attractive option because it does not solve the immediate needs of communities. The key issue for many communities is food security and the general ability of people to maintain their families and communities at an economic level.

“Hemp can provide the industrial quantities of biomass required to save and preserve remaining forest resources, biodiversity, and atmospheric carbon capture, while simultaneously improving food security and addressing the overtly socio-economic problems of poverty and urban migration.

“Hemp is far less vulnerable to changes in climate compared to slow to medium-growth forests, and still shares many of the biochemical characteristics of hardwood. In addition, hemp is a very versatile crop, not just in terms of use-value, but also in terms of how it can be managed by farmers. It requires low-intensive management, yet can effectively replace all the goods and services traditionally supplied by the now depleted forest resources, including fuel, food and shelter. Growing hemp on deforested hillsides prevents landslides, run-off and also prepares land for future crops or tree-planting. Several metric tons of wood can also be produced in a hectare.”

Ms Shaman envisages hemp playing a central role in responding to various global challenges: “Hemp is capable of addressing the interlinked challenges of climate change, soil health, nutrition, bio-fuels and sustainably-sourced raw materials for major industries. It is a multi-use, highly profitable crop that uniquely needs only 12 to 15 weeks to mature, opening up the possibility of carbon or bio-mass farming within the annual food-crop rotation.“This resolves the looming ‘food vs fuel’ crisis and ends the need for costly, wasteful, agro-forestry carbon projects.”

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