Eswatini farmers growing cannabis known as ‘Swazi gold’ may face economic ruin after its main source of income, neighbouring country South Africa, legalized the private growth and consumption of their country, reports Reuters.

"I need some money from ganja (cannabis), secondly this thing is a game like to me because I farm and sometimes some cops come and burn it," said Mbuso, a farmer who has been growing cannabis for fourteen years in the country formally known a Swaziland.

Mbuso is just one of scores of farmers in this small kingdom who depend on high demand for their potent cannabis strain.  They sell a gram of cannabis for about R7, that is then smuggled into South African and Mozambique where it is typically sold for about 10 times the price it was bought.

Thanks to South Africa’s recent legal amendment they fear it could choke their business who are mostly private users.

"I need the money from the ganja (cannabis) to make something bigger on my field at home to grow maize and beans you see. And I had to grow this first and harvest it and sell it and go farm at home." he said.

A Florida-based company, Profile Solutions Inc. recently received a coveted 10 year license to produce and sell hemp and medical grade cannabis in Eswatini.

But small-scale farmers like Mbuso are still being prosecuted, detained and having their crops of recreational marijuana burnt.

While subsistence farmers like Mbuso worry about their future, a few African governments are waking up to the potential of a legal cannabis industry.  Lesotho became the first country in Africa to legalise the production of marijuana for medical use last year.

In April, four South African companies obtained licences to supply medicinal dagga from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), the regulatory body responsible for granting cultivation and export licences. 

Read now: How to get a licence to grow dagga for the export market

The UN reports that over 10,000 tonnes of cannabis is produced in Africa every year.

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