043 703 6300

Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) Champions Hemp Sector Development

Jun 10, 2024

The Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) is at the forefront of developing South Africa’s hemp and cannabis sector, recognising its significant potential for investment, job creation, and sustainable rural livelihoods. As one of the fourteen priority sectors in the government’s Country Investment Strategy, the cannabis and hemp industries hold immense potential for investment, job creation, and the support of sustainable rural livelihoods, while recognising and upholding people’s rights.

The hemp sector in South Africa is at the dawn of its industrial development. Unlike other industries, there is no existing local industrial base for hemp cultivation and product manufacturing. This emerging sector requires comprehensive legislative and regulatory reform to thrive.

In the 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated the government’s commitment made in 2022 to unlock investment in the hemp and cannabis sector. During the Phakisa Action Lab gathering held in June 2023, the President emphasised the cannabis and hemp sector as one of 14 priority sectors defined in the government’s Country Investment Strategy. These sectors hold significant potential for securing investment, creating jobs, and supporting sustainable rural livelihoods, while recognising people’s rights.

“I am confident that the collaborative commitment to work together which characterises our society, will find expression in the Hemp and Cannabis Phakisa, leading to immediate short-term regulatory reform, the adoption of a set of foundational policy principles to achieve longer-term legislative reform and a detailed plan to achieve inclusive growth and investment,” the President said at the time.

Key findings from the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC) highlight significant opportunities and challenges within the hemp sector. These include market failures despite the issuance of multiple hemp permits and cannabis licenses due to the lack of secured industrial market demand; commercial opportunities in human and animal ingestible products, construction materials, industrial bio-composites, and textiles; and the need for enhanced private sector collaboration to harness essential capabilities and competencies for sector development.

Mandated by the Provincial Government, the ECRDA is at the forefront of coordinating cannabis and hemp sector development in the Eastern Cape. This multi-sectoral initiative involves collaboration with various public-sector entities to stimulate private-sector investment, focusing on black entrepreneur participation in the industrial value chains.

In recent efforts to bolster the hemp sector, the ECRDA has:

  • Conducted initial trials in 1999/2000 using French hemp cultivars, demonstrating the suitability of Eastern Cape’s agro-climatic conditions for hemp cultivation.
  • Issued over 100 cultivation permits to prospective hemp producers in the province, covering land areas ranging from 1 to 50 hectares.
  • Facilitated training for more than 100 prospective hemp producers, most of whom lack technical expertise in cultivating high-value crops like hemp.
  • Procured six tonnes of unlisted hemp seed varieties for research to determine their performance and expedite registration for successful cultivars.

In collaboration with Campangie de la Baie de Saint Augustin (COBASA), and investment management company represented by Mr. Gaspard de Villeneuve, the ECRDA is facilitating the visit of French hemp experts to South Africa. France, a global leader in hemp seed breeding, cultivation, and downstream value addition, offers technical competencies that could propel the Eastern Cape Province to become a hemp industrialisation hub.

The primary objectives of this visit include:

  • Developing a breeding programme using local cannabis landraces.
  • Evaluating the performance of French hemp cultivars under Eastern Cape conditions.
  • Providing training for public and private sector personnel on all aspects of hemp agronomy, crop care, processing, and downstream value-added.
  • Expediting personnel exchange and developing joint research programmes.
  • Developing training courses to build sector-specific technical skills.
  • Promoting French investment in the Eastern Cape’s hemp sector and fostering business-to-business joint ventures.
  • Exploring market opportunities for South African hemp products in the EU and reciprocal marketing of French hemp products in Africa.

“We, at the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency, are very excited about this partnership with the French hemp experts as it promises to establish the Eastern Cape as a leader in hemp industrialisation, leveraging French expertise to create a sustainable and competitive sector,” said ECRDA’s cannabis specialist Dr Sunshine Blouw.

“The ECRDA is committed to driving the development of the hemp and cannabis sector in the Eastern Cape, ensuring sustainable growth, and maximising the potential for job creation and investment. Through strategic collaborations and focused initiatives, the ECRDA aims to establish the Eastern Cape as a leading hub for hemp industrialisation,” Blouw concluded.

Dr Sunshine Blouw, Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency’s Cannabis Specialist with Henri de Villeneuve, from COBASA

    About Us

    Vision and mission of the ECRDA

    Guiding Principles

    The values that underpin the
    vision and mission of ECRDA


    ECRDA’s policy and legislative mandates

    Organisational Structure

    The leadership structure of
    the ECRDA

    Board of Directors

    Board charged with guiding the ECRDA’s overall plans


    The leadership team that ensure execution of the boards plans


    Farmers are supported so that they can effectively compete in the global market place.

    Cannabis and Hemp

    Promoting the growth and development of the cannabis and hemp industry.

    Forestry Development

    A strong community focus.

    Marine Tilapia Industry

    Development of a thriving marine tilapia industry.

    Wool and Mohair

    Developing competitiveness of small-scale farmers.

    Rural Finance

    Finance that stimulates vibrant rural economic activity.