KANNABIO uses a crop on the edge to drive cooperative agriculture in Greece

In April 2016, the production of industrial hemp was legalized by the Greek state after 60 long years of prohibition, introducing new opportunities and markets to a country that is trying to get back on its feet. It’s been a long known fact that Greece’s agriculture and farming sectors have significant growth potential, especially for organic production and niche products/markets. With the right climate, soil, and geographical diversity, we believe that hemp cultivation can flourish in Greece. As a result of recent legislation, we established KANNABIO, the first organic hemp social cooperative in the country, just a few days after the ministerial decision was signed.

KANNABIO has as a mission to promote Greek hemp as a quality product of origin and assist the development of the industry in Greece. Our goal is to get involved in organic and cooperative farming and processing, to produce quality organic hemp products, to promote the social and solidarity economy and protect the environment. Moreover, we undertake participatory research on hemp cultivation and processing, raise awareness about the benefits of hemp for the economy and the environment, while providing expertise, networking and promotion opportunities to local farmers.

Our founding members are involved in hemp trade since 1998 and are at the forefront of the legalization campaign in Greece since 2005. Two of the farmers-partners of KANNABIO are among the first three farmers to receive permission for hemp cultivation in Greece in 2016. Both of them owned hemp shops that were raided by police in 1998 and their products (clothes) were confiscated, while they faced a lengthy trial period for many years before they got acquitted but never compensated.

KANNABIO’s vision for Greek organic hemp is to become an international standard of organic quality through cooperative cultivation and processing. We want to lay the foundations for the promotion and sustainable use of the plant, and we want to actively contribute to the establishment of a healthy and cooperative hemp market in Greece, by supporting sustainable agricultural practices and rural development. As such, we oversee the production of organic hemp oil extraction products, nutritional supplements, and personal hygiene products, as well as the production of hemp-lime for eco-friendly building materials.

We want to promote cooperative principles and a philosophy of working collaboratively. We don’t focus narrowly on the commercial side of hemp, but our aim is to provide awareness, training, engagement, jobs and social consciousness, alongside the production of quality, organic health and nutrition products. In this effort, we aim to create novel healthy products that can contribute daily to the health of citizens, but also provide natural and accessible supplements to patients of various serious diseases.

Currently, we are finalizing a business investment plan in order to attract investment for establishing a small-scale cooperative production unit of hemp oils, hemp nutritional and personal hygiene products. Our production target for 2017 is to sign contracts with farmers for 25 hectares. In parallel, KANNABIO hemp co-op has developed a more integrated vision for cooperative hemp cultivation and processing in Greece, to support the establishment of the Greek hemp industry. This includes the creation of a mobile Hemp Caravan Museum that will travel all around Greece visiting different cities, organizing public events with guest speakers and guided exhibition tours for key stakeholders (farmers, processors, traders, public officials) and the wider public.

This action will bridge the knowledge gap that 60 years of hemp prohibition created and will contribute to capacity building and sensitization of farmers, professionals on the market and consumers about prospects of cooperative hemp cultivation and processing. Moreover, our cooperative vision includes the creation of a large-scale hemp processing unit producing fiber, shivs, flowers, seeds and dust, also including a production line of hemp insulation and construction material.

Cooperative business plan

The social cooperative will employ by priority unemployed, skilled youth and women, 35% of its net earnings will be reinvested in the cooperative, its employees and the creation of new jobs, while it will be governed by its shareholders. The shareholders will hold one vote each in the General Assembly, independently of the amount of shares they own (no more than 5% of the company share value for each shareholder).

We strongly believe and we have proposed to state authorities that in Greece, we have the capacity and the potential for the creation of 10 cooperative processing units in 10 different regions, that will be able to process at least 2.500 hectares each, by utilizing abandoned industrial facilities all over the country. Our long-term vision is the Cooperative Greek Hemp Industry to cultivate and process 25.000 hectares of hemp in 10-15 years time, converting more land into sustainable practices.

Finally, our cooperative plan includes the establishment of a non-profit Hemp R&D Foundation that will develop Greek hemp breeds by utilizing past and ongoing research and will provide technical support for cultivation and processing. The Foundation will also provide applied research and applications on cooperative schemes and practices for hemp cultivation and processing.

How can we help?

Hi @KANNABIO, welcome on board! I know hemp production is back and on the rise in Romania too, after prohibitive regulations following the fall of communism. As far as I know it is somewhat subsidized too.

Have you attended the OPENandChange workshop in Thessaloniki? With Edgeryders we are trying to gather tens of projects working on community care, broadly understood, to apply for funding. If you’re interested to be part of this, we are building partnerships until Sept 20th: http://openandchange.care

If there’s anything else we can do to help your initiative, let us know!