Australian citizens have, throughout history, survived
numerous droughts by reliance upon hemp to prevent starvation and malnutrition.
The seeds formed their source of protein and the leaves served as roughage
(Frazier, 1972). The seeds can also be ground and mixed with water to from
a highly nutritious gruel/porridge. The plant has even been used in hospitals
to replenish the under-nourished and for treatment of other various ailments.
For more information of the healing properties of hemp, please visit Clearspring
(www.clearspring.co.uk) for instance claim in an advertisement that :
'Hemp oil comes from one of the oldest cultivated plants and has followed civilizations as they moved around the globe. Jute and hemp fibres were the mainstay of many cultures (History) ... Since the 1930s, hemp oil has been regarded as a healing oil'.
Biona, suppliers of organic hemp seeds to Health food stores claim that their seeds are 'steamed to prevent germination ... without further concern from the authorities' and vouching that they are 'protecting the environment and protecting your health.' Biona highlight the the crop is also 'very fruitful'.
Hemp also grows well on marginal lands, being particularly suited to rural Third World countries suffering famine due to environmental and developmental problems.
Case study of South African Countries
The South African Climate is becoming increasingly variable, with greater tendency for drought and consequent failure of traditional crops. In 1993-4, for example, over 1 million Zimbabwe rural dwellers were dependent upon food relief from the government due to the premature ending of the rainy season (The Herald 28th May, 1994). Rapid population increases had meant that traditional farming techniques (such as shifting cultivation) were becoming unsustainable. Villagers have inadvertently contributed to reducing the soil's nutrients and stability by attempting to increase productivity beyond the optimum, for their survival. More marginal land is also being farmed. These have all lead to greater unsustainability and reduced food security.
Hemp plants could alleviate the problems being experienced
in South African countries in a number of ways:
Hemp as a source of food aid
The crop is very productive and could be produced at a much lower cost and with greater nutritional value than traditional food aid (simple grains and rice). It also has a large role to play in helping sufferers of malnutrition.
Hemp as a reserve crop should others fail
The ability of the crop to withstand the harshest of environmental conditions should be exploited and the crop can be used to as a standby to help villagers survive the worst dry seasons.
Hemp planting on marginal land
Hemp is able to tolerate these conditions and can also through proper management increase soil stability and prevent soil erosion (see biodiversity)
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