Letter to Nelson Mandela, South Africa, 1998

Dear President Nelson Mandela,

I hope that when this letter reaches you, it finds you in the best of health.

Having seen you in 1996 at the Red Hot Chilli Peppers concert in London and a surprise meeting outside your hotel here in St Lucia where I live, I’m inspired to write you (incidentally, this is on unbleached tree free hemp paper).

Some colleagues and I are currently working on a proposal to the St Lucia government seeking backing for the introduction of hemp as the flagship crop for a long-term agricultural diversification and crop rotation programme.

Despite continued EU support and efforts by international donor agencies (such as Oxfam’s Fair Trade Banana Campaign), our banana industry remains in serious decline. The aim of our project is to entice farmers, whose land is unsuitable for banana monoculture, back to the land to grow local produce for local consumption – most of which is currently imported from the US.

Hemp is a crop highly suited to crop rotation its root system holds soil together on hillslopes and being a weed, it needs little or no pesticides and herbicides. Due to its dense foliage, the plant blocks out light, thereby outcompeting other weeds and after harvest, leaves land clear and ready for the next crop. Hemp also returns vital nutrients back to the soil, largely eliminating the need for fertilizers.

Local St Lucian crafts people will be educated on how to use the hemp fibre to produce items such as mats, bags, hats, soaps etc. As consciousness shifts we would like St Lucia to have the opportunity of tapping into the eco-friendly global hemp market.

I could go on forever about hemp seed oil, hemp for sustainable biofuel, henry Ford’s 1940’s hemp car… but you probably already know about it all. I have just recently read an article about South Africa’s own consideration of the hemp crop. When we have completed our proposal, I will send you a copy, which can be passed on to anyone who may benefit.

Thank you for coming forward to greet me and to talk to my two sons – you made us all feel very special – an experience we will not forget. I never expected to meet you face to face and was therefore completely overwhelmed and tongue tied.

However on paper, I am unhindered.

Your work has touched the lives of all on our planet, and will continue to be a positive influence on future generations. We love your spirit and strive to emulate your visionary example.

From my heart and soul, I wish you love and peace.