Paraguay is nowadays one of the world’s big marijuana producers, and a supplier of “brick weed”—compressed cannabis of harmful quality, locally known as prensado, or “pressed weed”—to Argentina, Chile and Brazil. The country comprises one of the main areas targeted by emperor Charles I, according to Argentine journalist and researcher Fernando Soriano in his book “Marihuana, la historia de Manuel Belgrano a las copas cannabicas” [The History of Marijuana: from Manuel Belgrano to Cannabis Cups] (2017). The author mentions that, under a 1619 Royal Decree, several crops—including cannabis—had to be planted on Guarani soil. Indigenous communities have been familiar with the plant since its introduction to the Americas. Yet, eradication and criminalisation have left the millionaire business of hemp and its byproducts in the hands of drug-trafficking organisations. Today, amid a wave of legalisation, activism, and research, new business models are arising, involving the communities who know this plant the best.
The History of the Mboi Jagua
The Ava Guarani community is located in the North-eastern region of the country, in the department of Canindeyu, although they refer to themselves as Ava Katu Ete, meaning “the true man.” In this community, the name “Mboi Jagua” carries a symbolic meaning, and its literal translation is “Dog Snake.” Commonly known as “anaconda,” the Mboi is an animal that moves through water. This constrictor snake can only be found in tropical South American rivers. The largest specimens may reach 25 meters long and they live near water bodies, which is why they represent the spirit of water. The never-ending exploitation and pollution are forcing many species—including the anaconda or Mboi Jagua—into other areas to find a way of surviving. According to locals, soy plantations may represent the greatest source of pollution. The Indigenous tale goes that, in the past, the Mboi Jagua had never stayed in one place and quietly roamed across the rivers. Now, this species was forced to move away and the local community that has always used the water from rivers, streams, and springs are looking for alternatives to live without it.
Hemp-Producing Indigenous Peoples
In an attempt to address this issue, the introduction of other crops is intended to cleanse water bodies and re-establish trust with the Indigenous community, increasing their income and improving their quality of life. This is how the Paraguayan government has made a proposal to make the Mboi Jagua the first Indigenous people in the world to produce hemp, as disclosed by Marcelo Demo, president of the Paraguayan Chamber of Industrial Hemp (CCIP).
This business model would benefit from 30 to 40 families within the community, which would become involved in the production of industrial cannabis. According to the CCIP president, 10 hectares will be purchased for producing. Harvest is expected to bring in 10 thousand Paraguayan guarani per kilo of seed and one thousand guarani per kilo of hemp leaf over a four-month period. Production will also make use of hemp fibre.
This state-private partnership between governmental institutions and companies Healthy Grains S.A and Irupe Paraguay has made an essential achievement for the hemp industry on Guarani soil.