Hemp has a rich history in Nepal. Due to its strength, resilience, and durability, it has been used as a fiber for generations. Even though hemp fiber has a long history and has the potential to provide employment opportunities for disadvantaged and impoverished Nepalis, its industrial cultivation remains illegal. As a result, people only use plants that grow naturally and wild in rural and mountainous areas.
Hemp is grown in several districts of western Nepal at upper-middle altitudes with the bulk of cultivation occurring in the more remote regions about 3,000 meters elevation. Darchula, Rolpa, Bajhang, Rukum, Bajura, Jajarkot, and are among the districts in western Nepal that produce hemp textiles.
The higher altitude areas of the upper Darchula District, on the other hand, have long been regarded as the source of the top-class Nepali hemp cloth. Hemp fiber is twisted into twine and rope, rough yarn for weaving consumer market cloth and coarse sacking, and refined yarn for weaving their traditional cloth used for blankets, sash belts, and grain storage sacks.
In Nepal’s western villages, the slow, complex, and exhausting process of extracting hemp fiber is entirely done by hand. Women continue to dominate all stages of hemp cloth production, from seeding to varying phases of fiber processing, to rotating and weaving the yarn.
Hemp crops coexist in fields with other grain crops such as wheat, maize, tomatoes, mustard, potatoes, and tree fruits such as apples, pears, and plums, among others. From October to early December, mature plants are harvested. After the dew has evaporated, plants are harvested in the morning, starting with the bigger spontaneously growing plants.
Plants for fiber are harvested by digging them up and slicing the roots off with a sickle. 100-300 bundles of plants are returned to the house and placed in the sunlight to dry. The bark is separated from the stem after several weeks of soaking in water. Teased from the plant, the fibrous portion is twisted, sun-dried, beaten with a wooden stick to soften it, and ultimately spun. After spinning, the thread is steamed with water as well as wood ash and rinsed several times.
The villagers earn approximately $5 for the 3-4m long handwoven hemp fabrics. In addition to agriculture, this is a significant source of income. It helps the villagers to buy and improve their way of life. The majority of Nepalese earn less than $ 200 per year and live on less than $ 2 per day. Hemp is a source of hope in Nepal, a country with a high rate of unemployment, particularly in rural areas where no other viable source of income exists.
It is a significant source of income for villagers and their families who have no other options for employment in or around their villages. To help Nepal and its people, we hope that the Nepali government will eventually embrace industrial hemp cultivation. We hope that the future is bright for Nepal and its hardworking people and hemp is one of the most sustainable, versatile, and environmentally friendly plants on the planet.
Even though there are a plethora of hemp products distributors and exporters in the Kathmandu Valley today, only a few use ethically sourced and collected hemp for their natural fiber clothing. Because local hemp is too rough to wear against the skin, entrepreneurs must import finely processed hemp fiber and material from China.
Technically, hemp is illegal at this time. Despite this, no one grows hemp in Nepal; instead, they harvest the plants that grow naturally. The Hemp Association of Nepal (HAN) now has a Natural Fiber Sub-Committee to aid in the promotion and advancement of hemp and other natural fibers.
Hemp is environmentally friendly, sustainable, versatile, and has the potential to create jobs. In Kathmandu, numerous innovators are working to advance it, and not just for their benefit as they recognize the potential of the plant. The industry could thrive if the government would only permit the legal cultivation of industrial hemp.
Hemp can substantially transform the textile industry as well as rural development. Nepalis are battling to legalize it so that they can support their country and its people. Hemp products are not only fashionable but also make a statement. So, hopefully, people will soon be free to openly cultivate fiber from the best plants available.
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