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Canaveda Cannabis Institute - Nepal's first sustainable production and research center dedicated to the hemp plant

"A large part of the population is really poor, but there is a lot of untapped potential here," says Leon, explaining via video call what he and his business partners want to achieve in Nepal.

 "Hemp can save the world," says the native Austrian, using his phone to film the huge hemp plants that naturally grow in abundance here and, according to Canaveda, are just waiting to be industrialized.

Leon originally came to Asia about three years ago with the aim of developing a versatile Ayurvedic CBD oil. Hemp has an important meaning in Ayurvedic nutrition and herbal medicine and is often an important part of many recipes. Via India and Sri Lanka he finally came to Nepal, where the hemp plant is culturally firmly rooted. The idea for a central production, education and research location came about through the further processing of hemp fibers into textiles.

With the Canaveda Cannabis Institute, Leon Thomas Soede and his two business partners Pratik Karki and Himal Banjade in Nepal to create a sustainable industrialization with the help of the countless partly unused hemp plants. The establishment of a functioning cannabis industry would ultimately benefit a large part of the population and could boost the country's ailing economy. With the help of various projects and products, the country between India and Tibet is to become the Switzerland of Asia within the next five years.

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The goal sounds ambitious. Still, there are far worse places to create a profitable and sustainable hemp economy. After all, hemp plants grow almost everywhere in Nepal. Especially away from towns in the mountains, the plant lives up to its name as a weed. Thanks to the climate, the naturally growing hemp plants are sometimes several meters high and are extremely robust and resilient.

Many of the company's ideas go beyond the borders of Kathmandu. The Canaveda Cannabis Institute is currently being built on the outskirts of the city - a production and education campus dedicated to the useful and cultivated plant Cannabis Sativa.

Hemp is life

As a millennia-old useful and cultivated plant, hemp is a sustainable raw material with an interesting ecological balance, which could be of particular interest with regard to the future of our planet. The undemanding plant grows almost everywhere and can be processed from the seeds to the leaves to the fibers and thus used optimally.

Canaveda wants to use these useful properties and above all the unused, wild hemp plants to develop a local, independent and ecological economic cycle. A sustainable hemp industry that provides local people with local products could also help young Nepalis, who often head abroad in search of work.

According to Canaveda, Nepal should become the Switzerland of Asia and also serve as a role model. The founders see Nepal as an international hub for holistic solutions and innovations that serve as a model for the world. The starting point for this should be the Canaveda Cannabis Institute in the future.

Sustainable industrialization using hemp

Hemp is said to enable sustainable industrialization in Nepal. The research center combines living, work, teaching, healthcare and agriculture - all based on the useful and cultivated plant hemp.

A production plant for degradable hemp plastic, paper and building materials is being built in the middle of the area. Extracts can also be produced and exported there. A residential park is to be built around the production and education campus. The houses in the area, in which, for example, employees or, in the future, students of the institute can live, are built with the help of hemp fibers. Vegetables and fruit are planted in a permaculture garden.

The institute not only wants to help the people of Nepal to become part of the worldwide, profitable cannabis industry. They should also learn how the native cannabis plant can be used to generate more wealth. The Canaveda Cannabis Institute is also an educational center where people learn about legal regulations and their options for processing hemp. 

Leon shares how Nepal aims to become a place for people from all over the world to come here to thrive and learn. For example, how sustainable tourism can work. Because it is an important economic factor. In addition to Kathmandu with its world heritage sites, the region around Mount Everest in particular attracts masses of tourists every year. Tens of thousands of mountaineers cavort there every year. That leaves traces. The many people produce tons of waste, which mostly ends up in the landscape. Many aspects of the Nepalese economy appear to be in need of a sustained revolution.

In the research and education campus on the outskirts of Kathmandu, the Canaveda team is researching biological fuels, combustibles and building materials as well as biodegradable plastics. Hemp should help the poor country to make the step into the modern world without destroying and exploiting nature.

“We offer more than one solution; we share our knowledge and experience to build a future.”

The fibers of the hemp plants, for which this part of the Himalayan mountains is an ideal habitat, play an important role. Their genetics have adapted to sometimes harsh environmental conditions over thousands of years. Altitude and climate create ideal conditions for the growth of robust plants with extremely stable and resistant fibers and massive stems. Because the plants germinate here as early as February/March and can grow much longer due to the mild temperatures, they sometimes grow up to eight meters high.

The numbers speak for themselves. In Nepal, it is estimated that there are almost 9,000 tons of hemp fibers from wild hemp plants, of which only 3.2% are processed industrially, according to Canaveda. Data collected by the Hemp Association Nepal in 2019 also shows that an additional 12,000 tons could be cultivated. 

A change in the law is long overdue to use 100% of the available biomass and build a supply chain that could transform Nepal and create thousands of new jobs.

An improvement of social and economic structures is urgently needed. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to Welthungerhilfe, there is great inequality between different regions and sections of the population. Although the nutritional situation has greatly improved, malnutrition is still a serious problem for children's growth and development.

In 2015, Nepal was devastated by several severe earthquakes. Almost 10,000 people lost their lives and the country's infrastructure was badly damaged. According to the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) GmbH, the reconstruction of the already weakly developed Nepalese economy is taking a long time and is ineffective. It is therefore growing much more slowly than that of neighboring countries. Nepal's agricultural productivity is among the lowest in South Asia. Sustainable economic development would be immensely important.

Improving Nepal and the world with hemp

If Leon and his two business partners have their way, there is already enough raw material for it. The many wild hemp plants are just waiting to be used. Legal regulations prevent residents from harvesting and processing the myriad of naturally occurring hemp plants. Due to a lack of legal certainty, many would shy away from using the many wild hemp plants. As a result, many opportunities and income opportunities remain unused, explains Leon. The wild hemp plants would simply have to be industrialized.

Nepal, with its capital Kathmandu, was once considered an important place in global cannabis culture. Possession and use of cannabis were legal until 1973. Before the U.S. government pressured the cannabis trade to be banned, the use of cannabis, particularly hashish, was widespread across the country. Although the police tolerate cannabis during the annual Maha Shivaratri festival, celebrated in honor of the Hindu god Shiva, cannabis flowers containing THC are illegal. Selling cannabis is sometimes considered a serious criminal offence.

Many of the issues raised by Canaveda are of global importance. For example, the team supports compliance with the 17 goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. The resources on which our society is based are finite and we urgently need answers as to what energy supply, nutrition, transport and the like should look like in the future.

These could be created at the Canaveda Cannabis Institute in Kathmandu in the future. Ultimately, this should also create the basis for a legal framework that enables sustainable industrialization with the help of hemp. Not using the wild hemp plants is wasted potential, says Leon, who and his team at the Canaveda Cannabis Institute aim to create an international role model for a sustainable and healthy society that finds solutions to the problems we face today .

Together with N3xt Level OG from Austria, Canaveda is currently developing a ayurvedic CBD-Ol, based on old recipes. Nepalese hemp seed oil and terpenes from wild cannabis plants are said to be used for this. The Ayurvedic herbal and root extracts are obtained from the Himalayan region in India, Tibet and Nepal and enriched with hemp extracts in Austria. 20% of profits will be used to build the Canaveda Cannabis Institute. 

This content was originally published here.