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Malawi Gold is the name given to cannabis originating in Malawi. In Chichewa, it is locally known as chamba. Chamba is grown mainly in central and northern regions like Mzuzu. It is internationally renowned as one of the finest sativas from Africa. According to a World Bank report, it is often referred to as "the best and finest" Chamba in the world. Malawi Gold is also known as one of the most potent psychoactive pure African sativas. The popularity of this variety has led to such a profound increase in marijuana tourism and economic profit in Malawi that Malawi Gold is listed as one of the three 'Big C's'in Malawian exports 'Chambo' (Tilapia fish), Chombe (tea) Chamba (Malawi Gold)'.
Malawi gold has reached notoriety as the gold standard in Marijuana. Malawi Gold is a top grade Marijuana and is setting the gold standard internationally in quality Marijuana.
The effects of this marijuana are very psychoactive and long lasting. Although potency mainly has its roots in growing conditions--such as nutrients, care, competition for light/rootspace with other plants and post-harvest techniques--genetics play a large role in the potency that is possible. The combination of psychoactive constituents is unique within every variety of cannabis(sometimes with every different seed of the same variety), based on how inbred the genetic line is. The more inbreeding, the more stabilizing a set of characteristics is, e.g., the psychoactive properties.
Malawi is one of the largest producers of cannabis in Southern Africa. It is mainly cultivated in remote parts of the central and northern regions. In the north, it can be found growing in Mzimba District's Likwawa hills, and in Nkohotakota district. Nkhotakota District is known for producing the best marijuana, particularly near the banks of Lupache river. It can also be found at smaller quantities in the districts of Ntchisi, Kasungu, Ntcheu and Dedza. Most growers cultivate small, out of the way fields up on remote mountain hills, hidden in bushes, or intercropped with other field crops. There are a few commercial farmers. The United Nations Development Assistance Framework report that in the late 1990s, estimated that up to 385,000 acres (1,560 km2) in the country were devoted to the cultivation of marijuana. Currently the country produces about 70,000 kilograms a year. Women are largely involved in cultivation of chamba, while men are mainly involved in marketing it.
In Malawi, the marijuana buds are cured after being tightly bound in banana or maize leaves. They are sold in units called 'cobs'.
Its quality has led it to out perform marijuana grown in other countries in terms of sales in each market it is introduced in. International organized groups employ Malawians to purchase and produce cannabis from local producers. It mainly crosses Malawi borders through Mozambique and Zimbabwe, to South Africa. For South Africa, it has led to an increase in marijuana tourism from holiday makers seeking Malawi gold that is being sold in its borders. More recently Malawi Gold has now flooded the marijuana markets in Kenya, Tanzania, and many other locales. In Kenya, one cob of pure, smokable marijuana is worth US$1.97. About US$0.32 is paid to the original farmer. Until recently, it was the most popular type of Marijuana in Holland.
For many Marijuana smokers, Malawi gold has reached almost a cult status. There are websites and blogs which have been dedicated to the praise of chamba. In many cases, it has become the 'Cuban Cigar' of weed. Legends and myths have developed surrounding the potency of the drug, as an example, there is a popular story about visitors that came to Malawi, tried Chamba, and lost the will to return to their country of origin.
Malawi gains a significant amount of its tourism from the marijuana trade. Albeit illegal, the plant grows in the wild in many areas, which has made it hard to control. In the lake areas, many tourists purchase the drug and smoke it in the privacy of their hotel rooms or homes. Tourists in Malawi known to shop for Chamba in the Nkhotakota District which has a reputation for producing the best marijuana.
Illegal trade in Chamba amounts to and estimated 0.2% of Malawi's GDP or K1.4 billion. The majority of the product is not used locally since it is primarily grown for an export market. Integration in the global market has resulted to unfair trade therefore Malawian growers are getting underpaid. Malawi farmers receive only about a fifth of the price for which it is being sold in foreign consumer markets. It does however, fetch more money than Malawis largest export, tobacco. Most growers do not sell it directly to the market themselves, but instead to national or international traffickers.
Cannabis was widely used by the entire population as an intoxicant and as medicine in treating conditions like anthrax, dysentery, fevers, malaria, or snakebites. Rastafarians in Malawi now are the proponents that claim medicinal use of the chamba leaves. A research study entitled, "patients' Perceptions of Chamba (marijuana) Use in Malawi" was conducted in Zomba Mental Hospital was published in the International Journal of the Addictions in 1998. It had it implications for the development of treatment and prevention programs for chamba users in Malawi.
Malawian Rastafarians have been using Marijuana as part of their spiritual awakening for years. The Rastafarians cite religious importance in the use of the plant. Chamba growers also often use Magic to protect themselves and their fields.
Malawians have been using Chamba for recreational use for generations. The use of Chamba is particularly popular along the lake side. Many Malawians claim that Chamba helps them to relax and concentrate. Local students use Chamba to prevent pre-exam jitters. Police raids are common however recreational use of ganja remains unabated. Many backpackers and Overlanders are attracted to Malawi due to recreational use of inexpensive chamba.
Creative use of the drug has developed recipes, largely in the form of baked goods, that incorporate the drug.
Growing, dealing, using, or having Marijuana is an illegal offense in Malawi. Although Malawi Gold is illegal in Malawi, it is estimated to be the largest unofficial export. Malawian economists group the illegal export as one of the three 'Big C's'in Malawian exports 'Chambo (fish), Chombe (tea) Chamba (Malawi Gold)'. The growth in sales means that there are growers cultivating the drug illegally in Malawi due to the large profits they gain from its sales. However a recent World Bank study reported that Malawian farmers are being underpaid for their labor in the trade. The production and selling of chamba has been increasing in Malawi over the past few years. The efforts to curb its production and selling is also on the increase. Anti-drug unit is led by the Malawi Police Services that confiscate about 70,000 Kilos of Chamba per year for the year 2010.
Below are the United Nations figures on number of Chamba seizures in Malawi from 1995 - 2000 published in the 2003 Institute for Security Studies Report:
Rastafarians in Malawi have gone to court to demand their right to smoke marijuana. In 2000, the government briefly explored the possible legalization of Indian hemp, despite police warnings of potential abuse by cannabis growers. This was championed in parliament by Deputy Minister of Agriculture Joe Manduwa who argued that the plant could be a valuable alternative to tobacco. The idea was supported by member of parliament and medical doctor, Hetherwick Ntaba who argued that it is non-addictive.