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Many countries, one plant: Swaziland
In the next months I will discuss the island of Mauritius, and later on I will cover some of the Caribbean islands I had the privilege to visit: Jamaica, Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados & St. Vincent.
Swaziland is a small country landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique, with just over 1 million inhabitants. It is mostly known for its natural parks, where the amazing African flora and faunas are protected and visited by a large number of tourists each year. Swaziland is a very poor country, and it has the highest HIV/AIDS infection ratios on the planet (around 40% of the population is infected, according to data from the US government). It is also the last absolute monarchy in Southern Africa, and King Mswati III rules the country according to traditional tribal values, with a very dictatorial style. He has 14 wives, and every year chooses a new wife between thousands of â€œcompetingâ€ virgins. This ceremony is internationally known as the Reed Dance and represents a major tourist attraction, albeit mounting criticism from the international community. Swaziland has a constitution but political parties are illegal, and the currency is directly linked to the South African Rand.
Despite these not-so-democratic facts, the people of Swaziland are very friendly and extremely welcoming to foreigners, and the country enjoys a relatively crime-free status, with very little violence. Compared to neighboring South Africa and Mozambique it is a relatively safe country to travel to. Nevertheless a certain degree of organization and flexibility is mandatory, because the lack of infrastructure can be a real challenge.
Swaziland produces very large amounts of cannabis considering the limited geographical extension it occupies. According to the United Nations Drug Report of 2008, Swaziland is in the top-5 cannabis producing countries on the African continent. Virtually all of the cannabis production is exported across the porous border to South Africa or Mozambique, with a very small part left to satisfy the local demand. The people of Swaziland have the same type of relationship with cannabis that it is found in most of the poorest areas of the planet: it is the only crop able to create some income and to support local economical growth at tribal-family level. Most of the male population of the rural areas uses cannabis on a daily basis, for both recreational and medicinal purposes. The antiseptic properties of cannabis are extremely helpful to fight infections in rural areas.
In Swaziland there are several cannabis landraces, all of them quite similar to other Southern African sativas: they are very tall plants with few lateral branching, very stretchy and with an extremely long flowering time. The leaves are very thin, non-overlapping, and the buds are long and thin as well, with small trichomes and a very woody and incense-like smell. Plants are usually planted by the thousands, very close to each other; most of the times the males are left to pollinate the females, ensuring production of seeds for the next crop, as well as making the harvest much heavier and more profitable. Most of the fields are cultivated in remote areas, usually at a certain altitude. The locals take advantage of a very rugged terrain and they spread their fields over different valleys and hills, to minimize the losses due to drought and floods. A typical crop is planted in December, starts flowering in February and is harvested in April-May. The climate usually ensures enough rain for the fields to survive without any extra watering. Only during drought-years the crops fail.
Plants are fed 100% organic fertilizers (cow manure and ashes being the most common), and many fields grow completely unfertilized. The presence of the government on the territory is limited to the capital city and the tourist areas (mostly natural parks and border crossings), so the people of Swaziland can grow large extensions of cannabis virtually undisturbed.
Over the last 10 years many South Africans and few Europeans have been busy importing crops from Swaziland into neighbouring countries, and many of them brought seeds from European seed companies into Swaziland, introducing these new powerful genetics and crossing them with the local strains. The results are amazing to say the least. In most cases crossing the Swazi landraces with more indica strains coming from abroad has resulted in increased potency, new flavours and shorter flowering times. Some of these crosses would be well worth keeping, but the lack of infrastructure and the complicated logistics of the country make mother-and-clones operations virtually impossible. As a consequence, once a particularly good crop reaches the market, there is no trace left alive of its parentage.
Another innovative concept imported in recent years is hashish-making. Because of the huge size of the crops, there is always plenty of low-quality cannabis material to be used for making hashish. Few international crews are busy producing large quantities of sieved pollen hash, which also ends up in most South African cities. The quality is not comparable with Moroccan or Asian hashish, but it satisfies a very intense and constant demand, generating profits from material that would otherwise be useless. The reasons why the quality is not very good are the high humidity of the area and the very dirty, dusty rural condition where the making process takes place.
The hashish is manufactured by drying the cannabis material, crushing it and sieving it. The powder is then pressed in bricks for transport, using various types of pressing devices, from lead presses to truck jacks.
Swaziland is an interesting destination for the pot-oriented tourist with an adventure spirit, especially when combined with a visit to neighboring South Africa and Mozambique. It is a wild country where nature, man and cannabis are very connected; the best way to see the country is to rent a good 4x4 and drive through. But donâ€™t forget to bring your favourite rolling papers, because you wonâ€™t find many shops to buy them once you cross the borderâ€¦
Check out the live tread.
Peace, Love & THC
Franco â€“ Green House Seed Co.
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