SESEA: Could hemp be the catalyst for a bio-based economy in Africa?

Introducing hemp as a cash crop in Sierra Leone offers great potential.

As the crop can be grown simultaneously with other crops it generates additional income for farmers. SESEA is going to export hemp fibers.

Due to the optimal weather and soil conditions in Sierra Leone the fibres are of high quality. One of its main customers developed a technique to soften hemp fibre for high-end textiles.

How did the project start?

Adinda de Vries: In our family we all have a background in sustainable businesses, mostly in the creative industries. Akmel is also a marketer of sustainable innovations. As for myself, the past 25 years, as an independent consultant, I’ve always been passionate about developing systems for social entrepreneurship with local-based products. We were first thinking of apiculture and bamboo. But in our joint appreciation for quality goods, hemp turned out to be the most interesting.

How did MAW help in developing the concept further?

Akmel Wahouie: MAW supported the feasibility study. In Sierra Leone we were able to visit the production areas, have meetings with the farmer groups, take soil samples, further develop the idea with our local business partner, Robert Chakanda, director of Agroventures, and network with authorities. Now we have a worked-out plan and a licence to grow. Also, I believe pitching our proposal to potential investors will turn out
to be very helpful.

What is your vision for the future?

AW: We’ll have to operate on a large scale. Return of investment with the export market of fibres is foreseen after the second harvest in 2019. Meanwhile, we are going to develop other hemp products and their markets because that’s where the real opportunities are in terms of making profit. Sawdust and wood chips made from hemp can be used for natural construction and packaging material, hemp leaves for fodder. AdV: True, and by exploring the local hemp-based industry we create a lot of employment and build on positive practices of eco-friendly and viable entrepreneurship. And why not design a hemp-made eco-centre for students and young professionals? Than we can host an African fashion line solely made of hemp by talented African
couturiers.