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Climate Change: Can Hemp Help?

Climate Change: Can Hemp Help?

We received a tweet through WhatsApp that claimed hemp could be used to combat climate change in all of its aspects and promote sustainable development. 

To understand the coordination of the tweet, we looked at the # hashtag, and we discovered a number of tweets posted in different years with similar wording, “hemp for Africa,” and different perspectives on hemp.


According to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Commission, hemp is a species of the Cannabaceae family with very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, a crystalline compound that is the primary active component of cannabis. Due to its very low level of cannabis active ingredient, hemp is grown primarily for industrial purposes, and it is not used to produce drugs that affect mood or behavior.

According to Science Direct, a database of health-related journals and articles, hemp is now defined as cannabis with few active ingredients. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that the compound found in hemp can be extracted and used in foods, lotions, capsules, oils, and cosmetics. Despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) approval of its use in the United States, the CDC notes that it has some negative side effects, including liver damage.

According to the European Commission, hemp has a number of environmental benefits, including carbon storage, with one hectare of hemp grown in five months absorbing 9 to 15 metric tons of CO2, similar to the amount absorbed by a young forest; soil erosion prevention; biodiversity preservation; and aiding in the fight against pests and diseases in crops, which means that insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides can be avoided in most cases.

“Because hemp fiber is stable, elastic, lightweight, and biodegradable, it is an excellent substitute for plastic, and the oil recovered from harvested hemp plants can also be used to make diesel fuel,” according to an article published by National Geographic, an international nonprofit scientific and educational organization.  

According to the article, hemp plants are six times more efficient than cotton in terms of water usage, as researchers from the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy discovered. “In addition, hemp can grow three times more than cotton in the same area, and their carbon dioxide emissions are comparable when the entire production process is considered.”

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, hemp is an environmentally friendly plant that can be used to combat climate change. “It uses a fraction of the water required to grow cotton; every part is useful, and it absorbs more carbon dioxide per hectare than other crops and most trees,” according to the UNCTAD report.


The claim is true because hemp has environmental benefits and a wide range of natural products that can be used to combat climate change, even though it is not yet approved for cultivation in some African countries because it is classified as cannabis.

This fact-check was produced by the Debunk Media Initiative with support from Code for Africa’s PesaCheck, the International Fact-Checking Network, and the African Fact-Checking Alliance network.

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