By Oliver Matthews
Shamva, Zimbabwe, Sep 22 (EFE).- Electric fences, barbed wire and a German shepherd dog are among the measures taken to secure a farm growing cannabis, one of Zimbabwe’s newest and most controversial export industries.
Although illegal cannabis cultivation can still result in jail time, this new business, located in Shamva district around 70 kilometers (43 miles) northeastern of Harare, offers fresh hope for an economy still reeling under numerous crises.
“We are a tobacco merchant company that is slowly diverting to cannabis,” Innocent Mahufe, chief executive of Voedsel Cannabis, the company that runs the farm, tells Efe.
Voedsel Cannabis is one of 57 companies that was recently licensed by the Zimbabwean government to grow cannabis after President Emmerson Mnangagwa legalized its production in 2018 for medicinal or scientific purposes and under strict security measures.
Three years later, Zimbabwe joins the list of African countries legalizing cannabis for export, including Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi and South Africa.
Making the transition from tobacco to cannabis is not simple or cheap, says Mahufe.
“This farm was like a jungle. We had to do all these things from scratch,” he explains, pointing to a newly-built dam, pump house and irrigation system, as well as new sheds and an administration block.
The company also plans to import state-of-the-art greenhouses from Belgium and South Africa in order to expand its cannabis crop to 10 hectares (24.7 acres) over the next few months.
To grow medicinal cannabis, companies require a permit costing $50,000, which has to be renewed every five years.