A fast growing, hardy, herbaceous plant, hemp is known as the miracle plant. Not to be confused with its psychoactive cousin the cannabis plant, the hemp plant has many uses ranging from industrial to medicinal. This blog will be concentrating on the industrial significance of hemp, specifically in the textile industry.
For many years, the Kenyan government has been trying to revive the country’s textile industry. This effort has seen very little returns on investment mainly because of the stiff competition coming from imported fabrics and secondhand clothing. Furthermore, the country’s cotton industry is struggling due to poor yields and lower quality cotton (compared to Egypt). The cultivation of cotton requires for a lot of variables to be “just right”.
Compared to cotton, hemp is the low maintenance “dame wa mtaani” or “the girl next door” -very unassuming but once you get to know her, you realize she is a diamond in the rough. Whereas cotton is the slay queen whose pretty exterior crumbles upon closer inspection.
While Kenya touts itself as an environmentally conscious country, the government still has colonial era laws that inhibit the conservation efforts that would be brought about by hemp. With its many uses, hemp will reduce the need of logging of trees for paper and fuel as well as sequester Carbon from the atmosphere. Hemp grows in most places and doesn’t require harmful pesticides or herbicides and does not leech too much nutrients from the soil. It requires half the amount of water to produce the same amount of cotton as would hemp. But most importantly textile made from hemp is stronger, more absorbent and better insulating than cotton.
As a fabric, hemp provides all the warmth and softness of a natural textile but with a superior durability seldom found in other materials. Hemp is extremely versatile and can be used for countless products such as clothing, accessories, shoes, and even furniture. Apparel made from hemp will likely last longer and withstand harsh conditions.
So why would the government continue to spend tax money on projects that are doomed to fail. With the climate change threat looming, cotton growing is only going to get more precarious. Why are we holding so strongly to colonial laws that are inhibiting our industrialization goals? We can have the debate on cannabis on another day but it is clear that for Kenya to realize its industrialization and development goals, policy changes need to happen. Legalize hemp to save the textile industry in Kenya!