HEMP FARMING IN NEPAL
Hemp is an annual plant of the cannabis family, but it is not marijuana. It tends to be utilized to make an extensive variety of item because of its adaptable properties. As a fiber, hemp is a conventional material for making rope; it can likewise make paper and hemp cloth. Wide ranges of products like textiles, bio-fuel, biodegradable plastics, cosmetics, medicine, etc. are also made from hemp. Hemp seeds have been used in bird feed mix and can be utilized in the produce of oil-based paints, in creams as a saturating operator, for cooking, and in plastics as well.
There are some of the exceptional properties of hemp are:
- Hemp fiber is eight times stretchable and four times durable than cotton.
- Hemp clothes take in moisture up to 30% of its weight and dry quickly.
- Cultivation of hemp needs less water because it can resist drought.
- It needs few or no insecticides and pesticides because it is resistant to bacteria, mold, and mildew.
- Hemp grown in one acre of land can produce 250% or more fabric than cotton.
Hemp is grown at upper middle altitudes (approximately 1,500-3,500 meters elevation) in several districts of western Nepal, with the majority of cultivation taking place in the more remote regions around 3,000 meters elevation.Hemp textiles are produced in several districts in western Nepal like Darchula, Bajhang, Bajura, Dailekh, Jajarkot, Rolpa and Rukum. However, the higher altitude areas of upper Darchula District have long been considered the source of the highest quality Nepali hemp cloth. Hemp fiber is either spun into twine and rope, coarse yarn for weaving commercial market cloth and rough sacking, or finer yarn for weaving their traditional cloth used domestically for blankets, sash belts and grain storage sacks.
Hemp crops share fields with other “grain” crops like wheat, maize, tomatoes, mustard , potatoes and tree fruits like apples, pears and plums e.t.c. Mature plants are harvested in October through early December. Plants are harvested in the morning after the dew evaporates, beginning with the larger spontaneously growing plants. Plants intended for fiber use are harvested by pulling them from the ground and then slicing off the roots with a sickle. Bundles of 100-300 plants are carried back to the house and laid in the sunlight to warm.
PROCESSING STALKS, FIBER AND YARN
At harvest, the stalks range from 4-15 millimeters in diameter at the base, with the taller plants being of larger diameter. Smaller diameter stalks are preferred for spinning finer yarn for weaving. Very large and branched stalks can be used only for making rough cordage and are often simply stripped of their bark when still fresh and green.
After cutting, the stems are left to dry for 3-5 days before being retted in either still or running water for one or two days. The fibrous portion is teased out with the teeth, like allo (nettle) and then twisted and pulled clear. These fibers are coated with clay to make them soft and is sun-dried for two to three days and then beaten with a long paddle, which would free and soften the fiber. After spinning, the thread is boiled with wood ash and water for half an hour, washed until free of ash, and dried again.
SPINNING YARN FOR WEAVING
Generally, a wooden top or charkha (spinning wheel) is employed for spinning softened hemp fibers. In some cases, the fiber is rolled around the waist and the free end is clamped between the teeth. One hand quickly rolls the fiber down-through the teeth, which act as a filter-on to the spinner. The fineness of the yarn largely depends on the quality of the fiber and skill of the spinner. The thread obtained is suitable for making cloth, sacks, bags, head-straps (namlo),rope, fishnets etc. The products designed in Kathmandu for export include hemp thread knitted into vests, shawls and variety of new products ranging from bags, cushions covers, wallet, and men and ladies clothing with natural dyes.
ECONOMIC VALUE OF HEMP
The use of hemp for textiles, however, is nothing new. People have been cultivating hemp longer than any other textile fiber. Its textile use goes back as far as 8000 B.C. when it was first woven into fabric, eventually providing 80% of the world’s textiles. Although today you will find scores of hemp goods dealers and exporters around Kathmandu Valley, very few are using locally grown and processed hemp for their natural fiber clothes. The natural fibers industry in Nepal is not only a matter of business, but also a matter of rural and economical development. Hemp being an eco- friendly, sustainable and versatile fiber is providing jobs to the Nepalese villager in steady manner.