Now that dagga is legal, long-time rural growers’ market is dying

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Now that dagga is legal, long-time rural growers’ market is dying

In Pondoland, growers have been cultivating the plant for over 200 years, but legalisation has changed their fortunes

Christopher Clark

On a frigid September morning in Mkumbi, a remote village in the Pondoland region of the Eastern Cape, 63-year-old Sizane Nompethu rose at dawn and walked at a brisk pace down a rocky path to work her family’s small plot of land, just as she had every day since she was 15.

“I am old and you can see this is very hard work,” Nompethu told GroundUp as she cut through swathes of tall green marijuana shrubs with a small, curved knife, quickly amassing dense bunches that she cradled in her free arm. “But this is all we have. It’s how we raise our children.”

No one knows with confidence how many small-scale cannabis farmers there are in SA, but the number is large: one organisation estimates 900,000. Millions of people probably depend on income from cannabis. Here in Pondoland, these growers have been cultivating the plant for more than 200 years, with most of their harvest in more contemporary times bound for Cape Town townships and taxi ranks, as well as other SA cities...

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