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Ibrahim Idrissa, Agronomist at Genscore, Interview Series

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“Africa has the most ideal climate that allows cultivation for up to four growing seasons a year. and, we also have an ideal climate for processing cannabis. However, there hasn’t been enough willingness and serious investments into processing the cannabis into finished products for export. Africa will only benefit meaningfully, when the entire value chain operations, from seed to finished products are carried out right on the African continent. ”

Ibrahim Idrissa

It’s been two years since Malawi legalized cannabis farming for both medical and industrial use. Traditionally, the country has relied on tobacco as the major export earner. However, tobacco demand has waned and this has affected the economy of this Southern Africa nation. It is expected that cannabis exports will revive the ailing economy of Malawi. 

Malawi Gold, a high THC landrace strain from Malawi, is one of the strains that the country has been exporting illegally for dozens of years. 

But as in other countries that have legalized cannabis, things have been  easier said than done. From rigid laws to  stiff competition from the illicit market, the challenges faced by this nascent industry are rife. My Cannabis spoke with Ibrahim Idrissa, a cannabis agronomist in Malawi to gain a better perspective on the challenges and opportunities in Malawi’s legal cannabis industry. Ibrahim is an agronomist working with Genscore Africa, a cannabis genetics seed bank that stems from a partnership between Invegrow Genetics Malawi and Hempvolution from Spain

Meet Ibrahim

Can you briefly introduce yourself  and how your career path led you to the cannabis/ hemp industry?

Ibrahim is an agronomist trained at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and natural Resources(LUANAR). I launched my career by working with Asanah farms as farm manager, the main focus for the farm was producing seed for row crops like maize, groundnuts and  soybeans, However; I wanted new challenges and the cannabis industry was the obvious destination as it new industry in Malawi and it offered me new challenges.

Can you briefly introduce Genscore and what the company is doing in Malawi? 

Genscore stems from a partnership between Invegrow Genetics Malawi and Hempvolution from Spain. This partnership brings to Malawi and the entire African continent experience, expertise and superior cannabis genetics and consultancy. Genscore is a genetic bank offering germplasm research, development and registration programs and produce and retail seeds, seedlings and cuttings with whole traceability In Malawi. Genscore Africa goes beyond offering genetics, We offer consultancy services to growers so that they run successful cultivation sites. Consultancy includes, but not limited to; farm design, training cultivation teams, comply with international quality standards and ensure product quality and homogeneity. Working hygiene, Crop protection, Plant husbandry, Irrigation and destination, Products and equipment, Labeling and organization

What unique role do you play at Genscore and what are some of the challenges that you encounter in the course of executing your role? 

Genscore is now establishing its own cannabis cultivation and research site,  After years of conducting successful seed research trials, at a Malawi Government owned research. And, I am responsible for making sure all the construction, cultivation and operations are carried out effectively and ensuring timely completion of all works. This is in addition to the usual seed reproduction that’s already taking place. Being an industry that is still in its infancy, and coming from decades of criminalization, misconceptions about the cannabis crop are still rife and at times, expectations of employees and the communities surrounding the site tend to be unrealistic. Across the globe I would like to think this is the same scenario faced by all cultivators.

Adult-use cannabis in Africa seems to be “too radical” considering that most parts of the continent are yet to warm up to medicinal cannabis, let alone hemp-derived CBD. In your opinion, is Africa really ready for adult-use cannabis? 

The majority of the cannabis grown in Africa are the high THC varieties that are consumed illegally” for recreational purposes. However, most cannabis that is being legalized are the low THC/high CBD strains. Africa is not yet ready for Adult use cannabis and there is need for clear legislation to define and guide the use of cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes.

Again, research on viability of medicinal cannabis is still limited, proof, beyond reasonable doubt, that cannabis-infused drugs or cannabis prescriptions are better than the conventional medicine is needed. 

Even with legalization, cannabis will remain a regulated market. Will African nations (Malawi) be able to regulate such an industry or are we likely to experience chaos and disarray? 

With Clear laws and regulations, and learning from other countries that have a legalized and regulated market, African nations will be able to regulate the cannabis industry.

Malawi is one of the few African countries that have legalized the cultivation of cannabis for export and medical use. What have been some of the major setbacks and what kind of solutions are needed to remedy the situation? 

Malawi has the  lowest license fees amongst all countries, In southern Africa that have legalized cultivation of cannabis,  but the need for annual renewal of the license fees seem restrictive for new entrants into the industry. 

Again, There is a need for enhanced civic education with regards to what the cannabis industry is all about and what the government and citizens stand to benefit from a nutrition, health and economic perspective.

There are so many products that can be derived from cannabis depending on the level of investment that investors are willing to make. However, there hasn’t been enough willingness and serious investments into processing the cannabis into finished products for export. Africa will only benefit meaningfully, when the entire value chain operations, from seed to finished products are carried out right on the African continent. 

The African cannabis industry must not copy  the modus operandi for traditional industries like cotton, cocoa, tobacco and coffee.

Are we expecting any milestone changes in the African cannabis industry in 2022? 

Yes,  The industry is opening up and many investors are coming in and, with the right government policy and legislation we are set to see milestones.

Is it too soon to start investing in the cannabis market in Africa?

Africa has the most ideal climate that allows cultivation for up to four growing seasons a year. and, we also have an ideal climate for processing cannabis.

Additionally, the cost of cannabis production in Africa is only 32% of what our colleagues spend elsewhere. Africa therefore has a competitive edge.  With intense lobbying that’s sweeping across the continent,  many governments are set to decriminalize cannabis. This, therefore, is the best time to enter the African cannabis market.

It was a great pleasure to have this one-on-one with Ibrahim, Genscore agronomist. Readers who wish to keep up with the company are more than welcome to visit their website.

 

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.

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