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“Cannabis cures cancer”, “Cannabinoids found in cannabis are also found in mother’s milk ”, “A-Pinene compound which is present in both Cannabis and Conifer trees has been for centuries used to treat asthma”; B.E Hemp India’s Facebook page is full of positive messages about hemp.
Hemp is a plant with a long, controversial history. It is also one so versatile that it has made an appearance in different cultures as a source of food, oil, fibre, fabric, paper, fuel, and medicine. In fact, rumour has it that Henry Ford once considered using hemp as an element in a bio-plastic car he was building in the 1940s! Why then are we not using this stuff in everything we do? – a question that led to the existence of B.E. Hemp.
Bringing hemp back to India
Two years ago Benson Martis and his cousin Elston Menezes went to Nepal. “There were an abundance of stores there, selling things made of hemp – clothes, accessories, even food stuff! The seeds of hemp plant are consumed in gravies and pickles”, says Martis. The versatility of the plant surprised the duo and motivated them to bring it to India which has had a long-standing association with cannabis since 2000 B.C. “Once it was declared illegal by the US, we followed suit,” he adds.
The Bangalore based brand sells hemp and hemp fibre apparel, shoes, bags, wallets and accessories like dream catchers all of which are free of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC (the chemical responsible for most of the psychological effects of marijuana). Most of their products are made in Kathmandu and sold online through their Facebook page or in flea markets in the city.
“We are trying to remove the stigma associated with hemp and create awareness about its many different uses – in clothing and in the treatment of medical conditions”, says Benson. The enterprise organises talks in colleges and was recently part of the ‘Cannabis Cures Cancer’ conference organised in Bangalore recently.
Hemp is good for you…
“Hemp rope is the strongest rope you can find and clothes made of hemp are UV friendly. The fibre becomes softer with use but it does not wear out, is incredibly soft and feels great on your skin,” vouches Martis. Hemp oil is extremely nutritious. It is the only plant that has the perfect ratio of amino acids that the human body requires,” he adds.
…and for the earth
The eco-friendly nature of hemp is well known and its reputation as ‘the magic plant’ is justified by its numerous benefits to the environment. It is a hardy, quick yielding plant that thrives in any climatic region with no effort and minimal fertilizer and pesticide application leading to less pollution of air and water. Hemp fibre is stronger than that of most other plants, and can be recycled many more times than other products can.
An acre of hemp produces as much useful fibre as two acres of cotton and serves as an eco-friendly alternative source of paper. “Deforestation could be curbed by using hemp which makes great quality paper”, informs Martis.
There’s more. Hemp requires very little water for growth, a third of what cotton requires. Hemp regenerates soil, is biodegradable and can substitute trees in almost all aspects including paper, constructions, textiles, timber etc. It can replace petroleum based products like paints and produces clean burning fuel oil too.
Their awareness drives in colleges and corporates have helped. “Today a lot more people are seeing Cannabis for what it truly is. People are ready to switch from different fibres and brands that they have been using and give hemp a try.”
“We eventually want to get to a phase where we can grow our own hemp,” he says. Not a far-fetched thought given that countries like China are leading the way in hemp cultivation, processing, and textile manufacture. The team dreams of a day when sanctions around growing hemp ease up in India and large-scale cultivation of the plant becomes possible. Not only will it reduce the dependency on water-intensive crops like cotton and allow more land for food cultivation, it will also provide new sources of income for the country’s small farmers. Martis leaves me with a final question, “When from a single plant, you can get your food, oil, fodder, and fabric, will it not make you sustainable?”
All images courtesy B.E. Hemp India except where mentioned.
The Sustainable Fashion Hub is a series that examines shifts in the the global fashion industry to more sustainable and ethical practices and processes, with a special focus on India. It explores what goes into creating a just and sustainable fashion value chain – from the creation of garments and lifestyle accessories to making them available to consumers. All content on the hub is produced with 100% editorial independence by The Alternative.
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