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green entrepreneur

Hemp Fabric - a Fabric Generating Livelihood for Indian Farmers

The economic potential of cannabis is clearly vast and many countries including Canada and China have robust hemp cultivation industries and it's India's turn to encash it
Hemp Fabric - a Fabric Generating Livelihood for Indian Farmers
Image credit: Pixabay
Founder & President, Indian Industrial Hemp Association
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Cannabis has helped in the advancement of civilizations across the world. Hemp was used widely for different purposes including as a medicine and for making textile. Extensive research conducted recently shows that industrial hemp has the potential to change entire industries for the better. Leading nations and developed countries today are taking initiatives and implementing regulatory policies for the rapid development of the hemp industry.

Hemp in Indian Culture

In India, a land where hemp was an integral part of society and played a part in ceremonies in the past, hemp is now being rediscovered and being put to use to foster new industries. Governments are reframing policies related to industrial hemp under the state legislature and are taking positive steps to promote the cultivation of hemp. The hemp industry has vast potential to help in the growth of various markets.

The Uttarakhand government has taken an initiative to reframe its industrial hemp policy and has recently issued the first-ever hemp cultivation license. This means that hemp can now be used to create medicines, textiles, food items, paper, and building materials. A number of SHGs and farmer groups are supported by the Uttarakhand government and by private players under a PPP model which aims to advance the size and scope of the industry. Notably, it is estimated that annual revenues from Hemp textiles in Uttrakhand will equal 240 crore rupees while a farmer who grows hemp will earn approximately 1 lakh rupees annually from the sale of hemp. Hemp cultivation is all the more attractive because hemp can grow on barren land and requires little resources including water to flourish.

Uses of Hemp

Hemp has a number of uses and it can be used to manufacture goods of exceptional quality cheaply and more efficiently than they are manufactured today. Consider for instance that hemp grown on 1 acre of land can produce as much paper as can be produced from 4 acres of trees. Such efficiency in producing paper is the need of the hour because trees on thousands of acres are felled each year to produce paper. Hence instead of felling millions of trees, hemp can be cultivated and used to produce paper instead.

Another reason to cultivate hemp, particularly to manufacture paper is that the paper made from hemp fibre can be recycled up to 8 times while paper manufactured from wooded trees can only be recycled 3 times. Hence not only can a single acre of hemp produce 4 times as much paper as an acre of trees, but such paper can also be recycled many more times. Clearly cultivating hemp leads to better utilization of natural resources and as a result, to more prosperity in society.  

Most farmers in India are not wealthy which is why they will benefit immensely by cultivating hemp as hemp can grow on barren land and requires very little resources to flourish. So hemp can be grown cheaply which makes it ideal for cultivation by Indian farmers.

Today across Uttarakhand there are ghost villages, such villages are so called because they’ve been abandoned and their earlier inhabitants have moved to parts of the country that provide greater economic opportunity. However, allowing hemp to be cultivated has led many from such villagers to migrate back to their villages solely because cultivating hemp has presented them with a means to earn a livelihood. Not only has such in-migration presented villagers with the means to earn a livelihood, but it has also lowered some burden on larger cities to which the villagers, sensing better opportunity, had migrated. Cultivating hemp will also benefit farmers because they can live in their village and enjoy a far higher standard of living, and a higher savings rate, than they could while living and working in a city.

A Tough Fibre

Another reason to cultivate hemp is that the stem of the industrial hemp plant can be used to create tough fibre while rural women living in the villages of the Himalayan region have been doing so for decades. Today science has shown hemp to be a superior fibre and the hemp industry is playing a key part in popularizing the revolutionary potential of hemp fibre. Hemp fibre has anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory potential (to a certain extent), and the fabric produced from hemp is soothing, soft, and comforting to the touch. Cannabis sativa has low THC content (under 0.3per cent) and completely satisfies the norms of the NDPS act and also holds the potential to create significant economic growth in countries across the globe.

Has the Potential to Change the village Economy

Farmers will prosper by growing hemp because hemp can be used to manufacture goods such as canvas. In fact, hemp fibre is so synonymous with a canvas that the word canvas is derived from the word “cannabis”. Once manufactured, hemp canvas and fibre will have many uses, particularly with the armed forces. A reason for this is that canvas made from hemp is resistant to ultraviolet light, heat, mildew, and repels insects making it the perfect material for canvas used by the armed forces. In effect, the manufacture of canvas from hemp will help give an impetus to the domestic defence industry, something which is high on the government’s list of priorities. Farmers who cultivate hemp will play a small part in nurturing this industry. Notably, the defence sector is one the largest in India and among the largest industries in the world. When farmers manufacture for this industry, they stand to be a small part of one of the largest industries in the world.  

The process used to refine hemp fibre to make it ideal to produce fabric does require an investment in advanced technology. Hence research institutions and organizations across the world are investing huge capital in R&D programs to invent refining processes and technologies in order to create the finest hemp fabric for use in industries. Such processes, once they are successful, will benefit farmers who grow hemp.   

Using hemp, a fine and thin fibre of great durability and of high quality can be created which has multiple uses in the textile industry and as mentioned above even has used with the military. The true scope of hemp remains to be fully explored despite extensive ongoing research to fully understand its uses. In brief, Cannabis considered a harmful drug for decades is now reclaiming some of its lost glory and is even shining brightly in the eyes of many as it did in centuries past.  

The economic potential of cannabis is clearly vast and many countries including Canada and China have robust hemp cultivation industries. In Canada well over 100,000 acres of land is being used to grow hemp. In addition to providing a source of valuable material, hemp production creates thousands of jobs that sustain thousands of families. So the twin benefits of hemp fibre and other hemp extracts are supplemented by job creation and fuller utilization of natural resources. Furthermore, by growing hemp, an economy grows also.

In Other Countries

Considering the example of Canada and its successful cultivation of hemp, there is little or no reason to believe that similar or greater success cannot be replicated in India. Like Canada, India also has abundant land that is suitable for growing hemp. Yet the cultivation of hemp in India can have a greater impact economically on the nation that such cultivation has had in Canada. For instance, India is a developing country where the successful emergence of an entirely new industry will permeate much of the economy with greater vigour.

Additionally, Indian culture has an intimate relationship with cannabis and cannabis-based products could easily generate revenue for Indian companies in India and through exports. One of the beneficiaries of greater exporters will be the farmers who cultivate hemp. Because India is a developing country, it will take time for Indian industry to adapt and create white goods that meet global standards, yet Indians have an intimate knowledge of the Earth, nature, soil, and crops and cultivating hemp is a natural outgrowth of such intimacy.

Farmers in India have a precious relationship with the soil that is almost absent among farmers from other countries. By cultivating hemp farmers in India will be able to foster this relationship and reap the benefits of a higher personal income while also simultaneously benefiting the Indian industry and the whole economy.  

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