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Why Is Hemp Still Being Politically Sidelined When It Is The Solution To Deforestation?

Rebekah Shaman, Managing Director of the British Hemp Alliance, with an update from COP26

COP26 is probably the most important meeting this decade. It is the first time in two years our world leaders have come together to discuss the future of our planet, and decide what action they are going to take to combat the increasing ‘climate crisis’. 

One of the biggest breakthroughs was Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s detailed pledge to halt and reverse deforestation, dubbed the ‘great chainsaw massacre,’ and land degradation by 2030. 

More than 100 countries representing 85% of the world’s forests have signed up, including some of the biggest culprits; Brazil, Russia, Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

It is an important pledge, and underpinned by £14bn in public and private funding. But who is funding it, and why? 

Run-Off And Loss-Of Nutrients

I ask these questions because 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. 

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 realized 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. 

Rebekah Shaman

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. 

Resolves Looming Food Versus Fuel Crisis

The world has already well-overshot appropriate targets for greenhouse gas amount and global temperature, and we need an urgent alternative to fossil fuel emissions, deforestation and effective actions that draw down atmospheric carbon. 

Hemp is capable of addressing the interlinked challenges of climate change, soil health, nutrition, bio-fuels and sustainable sourced raw materials for major industries. 

It is a multi-use, highly profitable crop that uniquely needs only twelve to fifteen 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. 

Our aims at the British Hemp Alliance are threefold

UK Government to recognise Hemp, as an agricultural crop, put it in DEFRA and remove all licensing 

-Allow the farmer to grow, harvest, process and sell the whole plant

-Increase THC in the field to over 1%

So, it’s surely now the right time for the UK Government to take heed of the marvels of the hemp plant. 

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