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Lesotho is pioneering Africa’s medical cannabis industry

In 2017, Lesotho became the first country in Africa to allow the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes

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Lesotho is pioneering Africa's medical cannabis industry
A women worker picks up leaves from cannabis plants inside a greenhouse of Medigrow, a Lesotho-Canadian company that grows legal cannabis, located near Marakabei, in Lesotho. - The company has invested 17.4 million euros in this infrastructure. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

Vast white greenhouses sit high up on the slopes of Lesotho’s Marakabei town, hidden from view. 

It’s not fruit or vegetables, however, growing under the 18 plastic covers, but thousands of cannabis plants.

The cannabis is grown legally by the Lesotho-based company Medigrow and is regulated by the government. 

“We have three rows that contain 1,200 plants each. That’s 3,600 plants across the whole structure,” said Medigrow’s head of production Albert Theron, gazing proudly over the crop.

In 2017, the kingdom of 2.1 million people decided to tap into the booming medical marijuana industry, becoming the first country in Africa to allow the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

In order to meet legal standards, most traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the main psychoactive constituent responsible for marijuana’s intoxicating effects — are removed from the seeds.

The remaining medical version is primarily made of the non-psychoactive substance, cannabidiol (CBD), and can only be 0.03 per cent THC.

Investing in ‘green gold’ – 

Medigrow has invested $19.3 million in cannabis-growing facilities around the country’s capital, Maseru.

Lesotho is pioneering Africa's medical cannabis industry
An aerial photograph shows facilities owned by Medigrow, a Lesotho-Canadian company that grows legal cannabis near Marakabei, in Lesotho. – The company has invested 17.4 million euros in this infrastructure and it’s currently expanding its facilties. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

A heliport is also being built to ensure the cannabis — commonly referred to as “green gold” — is shipped safely and swiftly, said head of operations Relebohile Liphoto.

The investment is spurred by the industry’s positive outlook. 

The global market for medical cannabis is currently estimated at $150 billion and could reach $272 billion in 2028, according to Barclays Bank. 

“At the moment, we have almost 2,000 kilos of biomass and we are going to produce more than 1,000 litres of CBD oil,” said Liphoto.

“Depending on the market, we can sell cannabis oil at between $6,000 and $21,000 per litre.”

Mostly foreign companies –

Nicknamed “Kingdom in the Sky”, Lesotho is the only country in the world whose entire territory sits higher than 1,400 metres above sea level.

Lesotho is pioneering Africa's medical cannabis industry
Three workers from Medigrow, a Lesotho-Canadian company that grows legal cannabis, look for infections in a cannabis plant inside a greenhouse located near Marakabei, in Lesotho. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

Deputy health minister Manthabiseng Phohleli told reporters that the legalisation of cannabis presented “a huge opportunity for the country”, which boasts 300 days of sunshine per year.

“It attracts investors,” she said.

“So far, we have around 10 businesses operating on the territory.”

Entirely surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho is also one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 159 out of 189 in the latest UN Human Development Index.

Unemployment is high, public services are scant and almost a quarter of the population is infected with HIV.

The government charges 30,000 euros for a one-year renewable licence to grow cannabis. 

But the cost is too steep for most locals, and the market is dominated by foreign companies, mainly from Canada and the United States.

Basothos miss out –

Mothiba Thamae has been growing apples, peaches and raisins on 7.5 hectares of land for over two decades. 

He can not afford the “green gold” licence.

“We hoped the government would give small Basotho farmers the opportunity to cultivate (cannabis) legally,” said the 38-year old, referring to Lesotho’s main ethnic group. 

“Unfortunately they did not.”

Year-long sunshine and fertile soils make Lesotho ideal for cannabis plants. 

Known as “matekoane” in Sesotho, the country’s national language, it has been grown for centuries in rural areas.

“The first historical trace of matekoane dates back to the 16th century,” said Laurent Laniel, a researcher at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. 

“The Koena (people) are believed to have settled in Lesotho around 1550 by buying land from San groups in exchange for marijuana.”

‘Cannabis money is a bonus’ –

To this day, cannabis remains an important source of revenue for many small-scale farmers.

Shasha owns a cornfield in the centre of the country, on which he has also been growing cannabis illegally for around 20 years.

Lesotho is pioneering Africa's medical cannabis industry
A Scientists from Lucan Labs, a lab specialised in analysing cannabis, works on samples in Maseru, Lesotho on August 7, 2019. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

“The vegetables feed my family. Cannabis money is a bonus,” said Shasha.

“It allows me to survive and pay for my children’s education.”

He sells his “matekoane” to a network of dealers like Jama, who smuggles up to 80 kilos of cannabis across the border to South Africa each month. 

“That yields between 400 and 500 euros,” Jama told reporters.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 70 per cent of marijuana consumed in South Africa is grown in Lesotho, making cannabis the country’s third source of revenue.

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Environment

Uganda’s teenage environmental activist calls for urgent climate change action

Leah Namugerwa has led a campaign to urge Kampala to implement a ban on plastic bags blighting the country

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Uganda's teenage environmental activist calls for urgent climate change action
Leah Namugerwa, a 15 year-old climate activist, holds a placard next to her father Lukwago Cephas in Kampala on September 4, 2019. - Her activism includes striking around the city with a placard in order to raise awareness about climate change and the environment. She also misses out on school every Friday as a protest and has full support from her dad who is also her manager. (Photo by SUMY SADURNI / AFP)

When Ugandan Leah Namugerwa turned 15 last month, she decided to plant 200 trees rather than have a birthday party, in her latest effort to spotlight environmental damage in her country.

Juggling school, protests, and giving speeches in regional capitals rallying for action to save the planet, she is one of a generation of youths inspired by Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg.

“If adults are not willing to take leadership, I and fellow children will lead them. Why should I watch on as environment injustices happen before my eyes?” Namugerwa said in the Rwandan capital Kigali last week, receiving a standing ovation for her address on the climate emergency.

Back in Kampala, she told reporters she was inspired to do weekly school strikes after becoming aware of her own government’s “inaction” on environmental issues, and discovering Thunberg’s sit-ins outside Sweden’s parliament that led to a global youth movement.

Namugerwa was one of several activists with the Fridays for Future movement to receive this week Amnesty International’s highest human rights award for their work.

Uganda's teenage environmental activist calls for urgent climate change action
Leah Namugerwa, a 15-year-old climate activist, holds a placard in Kampala on September 4, 2019. (Photo by SUMY SADURNI / AFP)

She has led a campaign to urge Kampala to implement a ban on plastic bags blighting the country, and sounds the alarm about massive deforestation as well as prolonged droughts and flooding attributed to climate change.

“What made me get concerned and get involved in this campaign is because of the climate change and effects on our lives, like we have experienced high temperatures as never before, we have experienced flooding… diseases are spreading.

She said young people “have to speak out.”

“If we don’t, our future is not guaranteed. The current leaders will be gone but we shall be there to suffer the consequences of their inactions.”

A real danger –

The first time she held a protest for climate action was a Friday in February this year, on her own in a Kampala suburb.

Uganda's teenage environmental activist calls for urgent climate change action
Leah Namugerwa, a 15-year-old climate activist, holds a placard in Kampala on September 4, 2019. (Photo by SUMY SADURNI / AFP)

“I felt I was doing the right thing and on the right track but to most people including some of my family members it looked to them as weird. They were glancing at me, shaking their heads in disbelief as I held my placards,” she said.

Now, a group of teens join her every week in missing school to hold their strikes on Fridays.

“Some people have criticised me. They say at this age and on Fridays I should be in classroom not on streets holding strikes. Good thing my parents have supported me. They have encouraged me.”

Namugerwa — who will take part this Friday in co-ordinated worldwide climate protests — said she is heartened by rising interest in environmental issues in Uganda.

“Issues about climate change are not given the priority they deserve… but the debate is picking up now with our campaign.”

Another teen activist who has joined her strikes, Jerome Mukasa, 15, said Namugerwa had opened the eyes of young Ugandans to the environmental crises in their country.

“Before the message on climate and environment was not clear to some us but Leah has simplified it to us, that it is real and a danger to all of us.”

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Culture & Tourism

Moroccan TV show suspended for celebrity guest’s boast of “beating his wife”

No legal action has been taken against Miloudi, despite waves of outrage on social media

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TV show banned in Morocco for promoting violence against women
Courtesy: Chada TV, Morocco.

A Moroccan television show has been suspended for allowing a celebrity guest to boast on air of “beating his wife”, the country media authority said Wednesday.

“Whoever doesn’t beat his wife is not a man,” popular singer Adil El Miloudi said in June on a Chada TV show, Kotbi Tonight, drawing laughter from a fellow guest, actor Samy Naceri, and host Imad Kotbi.

“In Morocco, this is normal, anyone can do what he wants with his wife, hit her, kill her,” he insisted after  Kotbi jokingly said: “It’s forbidden to hit one’s wife all over the world.” 

Miloudi’s remarks amounted to “justification for violence against women, an express incitement to violence, presented in a positive way as a sign of virility… or even recommended behaviour”, the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HACA) said in a statement.

In response to this “explicitly violent speech”, the host adopted a “playful tone” and allowed his guest to repeat his call for violence against women”, it added. The media authority said Kotbi Tonight was to be suspended for three weeks.

So far, no legal action has been taken against Miloudi, despite waves of outrage on social media in reaction to his comments. Misogynistic and sexist attitudes are commonplace in Morocco and rarely condemned by authorities.

Last year, HACA penalised a Chada FM radio show after a commentator said on air that “women who are the most exposed to uterine cancer are those who resort to prostitution or adultery”.

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Culture & Tourism

Ake festival 2019: A festival of arts and books

The preservation of African culture gave birth to the Aké Arts and Book Festival

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Ake Festival 2019 partners News Central
A panel session with speakers discussing at the Ake Festival

What happens when two Afro-optimist giants and pioneers of African cultural advancement form a partnership to host the biggest cultural and artsy event on the continent?

You guessed right. An invitation to an authentic African experience. From October 24-27, the 7th edition of the Aké Arts and Book Festival will take place in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital. News Central will, this time, bring you all the action live from the venue.

Themed “Black Bodies: Grey Matter”, this year’s edition will feature book chats, readings, panel discussions, art exhibitions, films, music, theatre and many more creative expressions through black bodies that genuinely tell the African story.

The Ake Festival –  News Central Story

In the royal town of Ake, Ogun State, South-Western Nigeria, the birthplace of Professor Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, a passion for the preservation of African culture gave birth to the Aké Arts and Book Festival.

For 6 years, the festival, founded in 2013 by renowned Nigerian writer, Lola Shoneyin has converged Africa’s brightest and most artistically creative minds to engage in pro-African discourse.

And this year, News Central hopes to infuse the “Africa. First.” narrative, an important piece in the Ake Festival puzzle for a successful celebration of Africa in all of her uniqueness.

What does Africa. First. mean for Ake Festival?

In a recent interview, Lola Shoneyin revealed her delight in partnering with News Central, a frontier media platform that puts Africa and Africans in the driver’s seat of our stories.

“I love Africa. First…and I love it because it really resonates with me.”

Lola Shoneyin

Africa. First. is a movement by Africans and for Africa! It seeks to put the conversation on African culture and power back on the front burner.  The African culture is vibrantly expressive, uniquely diverse, progressively modern and enviably embodied in Black Bodies and Grey Matter.

Our boldness and power are sourced from the blood of great inventors, mighty rulers and pioneers of civilisations that courses through our veins. African power is rooted in this transfer and it is our responsibility to protect and prolong it.

News Central is proud to pioneer this movement and shared vision to promote the African culture and power at events such as the Aké Fest, using our balanced and Afro-optimist media platform in making these stories accessible to Africans.

As our Director of Content and Programmes, Becky Muikia puts it:

“We give them a voice on a pan-African scale.”

Becky Muikia

Africa, now is your time!

Promoting, amplifying and celebrating the African experience is at the heart of the Aké Festival and News Central partnership.

For four days, come witness a full blend of Afro cultural immersion and untold stories told by hundreds of writers, poets, dancers, artists, film-makers, and other creatives. Join us on this shared journey by registering to attend here Aké Festival.

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

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