Eastern Cape farmers upskill to “go green”

  • Upskiller Training Force has partnered with an online cannabis educator to train 100 farmers in the Eastern Cape on the cannabis and hemp value chain.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa said in 2022 that the cannabis industry has the potential to create over 100 000 jobs.
  • The diverse group of farmers learned how to harvest and process hemp, low-tech applications for the plant, and how to best take the products to market.

On Friday, Johannesburg-based upskiller Training Force revealed that it has embarked on an initiative to train 100 farmers in the Eastern Cape in the cultivation and value chain surrounding the production of industrial hemp.

The training drive is being conducted in collaboration with Cheeba Cannabis Training, an educator that offers online courses to grow medical cannabis and to better harness the plant and the industry surrounding it – an industry President Cyril Ramaphosa said in 2022 has the potential to create 130 000 new jobs.

According to an announcement from Training Force, the drive began taking place at the Fort Cox Agriculture and Forestry Training Institute in Middledrift just north of King Williamstown, in the Eastern Cape. It was partly funded by the Eastern Cape Rural Development Association.

A diverse group of farmers take part in the training. Image provided.

“The comprehensive course covered the agricultural element of hemp cultivation, including the various industrial applications of hemp and how to harvest and process the plants. It also incorporated areas such as the legal framework of the hemp industry, how to produce a number of products from the hemp plant, taking the products to market, and various other elements in the hemp supply chain,” Training Force explains.

“Together with Training Force, we developed and delivered a comprehensive programme that included a significant practical component. This covered how to plant hemp seed and manage fields as well as low-tech applications for the hemp plant, such as hemp bricks, cosmetics, hemp milk and manual decortication to make things like basic fibres like rope,” said Linda Siboto, director and co-founder of Cheeba Cannabis Training.

“The course also included a module aligned to the AgriSETA National Certificate in Plant Production. This unique programme is a first in the country and will empower the farmers to develop both the value and supply chain around industrial hemp production,” they added.

Hemp is widely regarded as a wonder plant, with wide swathes of applications, from textiles, paper and food to construction, cosmetics, energy production in the form of biofuels, and more. Growing hemp is merely the first part of getting the local burgeoning industry off the ground, says Siboto.

Siboto believes the industry represents a significant opportunity for economic growth, rural development, community upliftment and carbon reduction.

“Globally, it has been identified as a massive growth sector, and it aligns with numerous United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. While agriculture is a catalyst for hemp production, it spreads to so many different industries and could provide significant employment opportunities across the value chain”

“This strategic endeavour not only elevates the prospects for local farmers but also contributes to the diversification and sustainability of South Africa’s agricultural landscape. It empowers local farmers with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this young and growing industry,” chimed Daniel Orelowitz, MD at Training Force.

Aside from hemp, South Africa’s cannabis industry has for some time now been a focus for the government, if a peripheral one.

The private recreational use of marijuana (dagga) was decriminalised in 2021, and since then the local industry has made significant shifts into formalisation. Government continues to suggest cannabis can be harnessed to the economic benefit of South Africans, but few actual forrays have been made in this regard.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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