Malawi cannabis: Farmers' high hopes fail to materialise

Posted on 3/22/2023 8:12:52 AM

From the BBC news ... 

Malawi cannabis: Farmers' high hopes fail to materialise

Image caption,
Ethel Chilembwe wanted to move away from relying on tobacco farming

Malawian farmer Ethel Chilembwe has paid out hundreds of dollars, cleared six hectares of land and got ready for the training, but after two years of waiting she has not cultivated a single cannabis plant.

Malawi legalised cannabis farming for industrial and medicinal use in February 2020 hoping to take advantage of the booming global demand and move away from the reliance on tobacco as an export crop.

Ms Chilembwe, who has been farming tobacco in Kasungu in the west of the country for the last seven years, also scented an opportunity to replace her shrinking returns.

She was not the only one - hundreds of other farmers have also been left disappointed.

The United States Cannabis Association-Malawi (USCA), a private Malawian company, has been one of those at the centre of this failure, yet it still hopes that things will work out.

As part of its vision for how the country could benefit from cannabis, the government wanted to involve as many small-scale farmers as possible who would source seeds from local private companies and then sell the harvest back to them.

But things did not work out as planned.

Image caption,
The land that Ms Chilembwe had prepared for the cannabis crop has been left unused

As part of a requirement to get a growers' licence from the government, Ms Chilembwe joined hands with other tobacco farmers nearby and registered a co-operative group.

Having already paid $1,500 (£1,200) to acquire the licence, Ms Chilembwe says the group paid thousands more dollars to USCA for registration, seeds and training in 2021.

But she got neither the seeds nor the training.

"I think the problem lies with [USCA], who cannot deliver what they promised, and then the government itself which does not seem willing to help us

"This is why we are stuck," the farmer tells the BBC.

The land where she hoped to set up greenhouses has remained bare, something she says has led to a huge loss to her family.

Maquenda Chunga has a similar story.

"We have got a contract with [USCA] which they gave us a price of $80-$150 per kilogram," he says.

Mr Chunga is a former politician who served as an MP for five years up to 2019 and supported the legalisation of cannabis in parliament.

The co-operative of 15 farmers which he leads managed to raise some $250,000 to set up greenhouses.

However, he says USCA only supplied a fraction of the expensive seeds paid for.

Image caption,
Maquenda Chunga has cultivated some cannabis plants but is unable to sell the crop back to USCA

The initial harvest they managed to produce now lies in boxes inside a small store house with nowhere to go despite USCA also having committed itself to buy the harvested hemp.

"We had hope, [that] if we borrowed the money from the bank we knew that we would pay it back," adds the disgruntled former parliamentarian.

He blames the government for not ensuring that USCA would live up to its promises.

USCA is one of the four private entities licensed by the government to produce cannabis in Malawi.

In order to acquire this licence, a company had to "have a warehouse, and ability to process either medicinal or industrial hemp", says the Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA), in a statement issued to the BBC.

But USCA has neither a warehouse nor the processing facility.

The company has nearly 7,000 farmers on its register.

Its chief executive officer Paul Maulidi blames a fall out between the local owners of the company and foreign investors who allegedly pulled out of an investment deal.

The head of CRA says the money that was raised from the farmers was spent on running USCA's office operations, and this left them with no funds to carry out their plans.

But Mr Maulidi still believes things can work out. He only joined the company last year and insists he is there to make things right.

"There must be some people who can come in and say let's do something about it to rectify the situation. I still feel farmers need to be helped," Mr Maulidi says.

"We are engaging with the co-operatives who are coming here and we are telling them of our plans and how we can execute those plans."

The CRA says it has asked the company to fulfil its contracts or refund the farmers.

Furthermore, it has given USCA a three-month grace period after its licence had expired and says it will only renew it if farmers' concerns are addressed.

The authority has asked USCA "to fulfil their agreement with farmer co-operatives or else they should pay back the money", the regulator told the BBC in an email response.

But the problem is not just with USCA.

Out of the four companies operating in the cannabis industry in Malawi, only one still has a valid licence. The other two are yet to launch commercial operations according to the regulator.

The government insists farmers will get help.

The farmers "should come forward and present their case through the CRA to us and we will show the direction as to how they can be assisted", says Dixie Kampani, an assistant minister in the department of agriculture, but he did not elaborate on the plan.

There has however been one success.

Invegrow, a company owned by a mix of local and foreign investors, employs hundreds of people, and grows cannabis from the nursery to the flowering and harvesting stage.

Image caption,
Invegrow has managed to start growing cannabis at a nursery

This is in addition to having a processing factory on site in the capital, Lilongwe, where they produce cannabis oil for local sales and export as well as other by-products like animal feed.

But they are yet to sign up many farmers.

"We have been piloting with 100 farmers for production of seeds only for the past one year," says Nebert Nyirenda, the company director.

The growing of the crop for sale is a separate process.

If the scale of their operations is anything to go by, cannabis farming in Malawi could be out of reach for the majority of the farmers it was initially targeted at.

"We have invested $4m since 2013, part of it went to research and lobbying but the bulk has gone into setting up the infrastructure you can see here," Mr Nyirenda adds.

Malawi is still saying that it can make a success out of cannabis.

But for now farmers like Ms Chilembwe and Mr Chunga who had hoped to benefit say they have been left financially scarred by this experience.


This article talks about cannabis in Malawi. Perhaps @ChatGPT BOT can speak to the potential for cannabis in the African market in general and listing the top countries where there is potential? 

ChatGPT BOT wrote:
The article discusses how farmers in Malawi have failed to reap the benefits of legalized cannabis due to lack of infrastructure, regulation, and access to quality seeds. It is a cautionary tale against rushing into industries without sufficient preparation. However, it also demonstrates the potential for cannabis cultivation in Africa. According to Prohibition Partners, African countries with potential for significant growth include Zimbabwe, Lesotho , South Africa , Ghana , Kenya and eSwatini (formerly Swaziland). All offer unique opportunities for cannabis-based businesses, from medical marijuana products such as oils and extracts to recreational legalization or decriminalization schemes. Many are already advancing legislation encouraging these activities – such as Uganda's recent decision to lift its ban on hemp production – indicating that this could be just the beginning of an important market for producers across the continent.
ChatGPT BOT wrote:
The article discusses the potential of cannabis farming in Malawi, and how this has failed to materialize for many small-scale farmers. The government had initially hoped to tap into the booming global demand for cannabis and move away from relying on tobacco as an export crop. While one company, Invegrow, has managed to make significant progress in terms of setting up infrastructure and piloting a project with 100 farmers, the majority of small-scale farmers have not achieved success within the industry. This lack of success could be attributed to lack of adequate support from both private companies like USCA and the government. The example of Malawi warns other African countries about difficulties that may arise when attempting to benefit economically from legalising cannabis farming. However, some countries have successfully implemented regulations that allow them to capitalise on this industry by providing clear guidance on licensing requirements (e.g Zimbabwe) or creating accesses channels so that local farmers can benefit (e.g South Africa). There is thus potential for African countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa—where there is already legalisation in place—to leverage their current situation and develop commercial models which broaden access for local surveys while reaping economic benefits from this industry.
ChatGPT BOT wrote:
The article discusses the failure of Malawi cannabis farmers to materialize their high hopes, due to a dearth of resources and lackluster government involvement. This is a problem that many African countries face when attempting to capitalize on newly legalized markets such as cannabis. However, other countries have been able to capitalize on the potential of this industry, with Lesotho and Zimbabwe being two of the leading African nations in terms of cannabis production and export. There are also promising opportunities for South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya in this industry. With adequate investment in infrastructure and financial support from both private businesses and governments, African countries can make great strides towards creating successful international cannabis markets throughout the continent.
ChatGPT BOT wrote:
The African market for cannabis has great potential for growth, with countries across the continent embracing measures to legalize and cultivate the crop. According to research report by Grand View Research, the African cannabis market size was estimated at $85.6 million in 2019 and is expected to reach $588.3 million by 2027. The most promising markets are South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Malawi as they have taken major steps towards legalizing medical marijuana or decriminalizing recreational use of marijuana products. In 2020 alone South Africa legalized private cultivation of cannabis for personal use; Nigeria approved its first bill on Medical Cannabis; Zimbabwe launched a regulatory framework that recognizes the medicinal value of Marijuana; Lesotho began allowing exports of medical marijuana in June 2020; while Malawi aimed at taking advantage of the booming global demand by legalising hemp farming for industrial and medicinal use in February 2021.
ChatGPT BOT wrote:
This article outlines the unfortunate circumstances that Malawian farmers have faced when attempting to grow cannabis for medicinal and industrial use in the country. Unfortunately, due to poor oversight from both private companies as well as government entities, many of these small-scale farmers have been unable to reap the benefits from this potential new industry. This highlights an issue with not just Malawi, but other countries in Africa too - inadequate regulatory support for small-scale cannabis farmers and a lack of infrastructure resources make it difficult for any real progress to be made in this sector. Ultimately, if African countries are to make progress with legalising cannabis farming and providing economic opportunities, they must ensure there is proper oversight and investment into necessary infrastructure so that local small-scale farmers can benefit.
ChatGPT BOT wrote:
This article paints a troubling picture for cannabis farming in Malawi. Despite legalising the crop for industrial and medicinal use in 2020, efforts to have small-scale farmers source seeds from local private companies and then sell the harvest back to them have been largely unsuccessful due to unmet promises from private companies, a lack of government oversight, and financial strain placed on farmers. However, there may be potential for cannabis growth in other African countries such as Zimbabwe and Lesotho who are also exploring legalisation. Others such as South Africa could potentially benefit economically with the right infrastructure put into place. With proper regulation and industry leadership, there is potential for a booming cannabis market in Africa that could bring about economic development and job opportunities for many citizens of the continent.