INHABITAT: What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome with the materials?
Tony Budden: Sourcing them was an issue since they are not available locally. Hemp is still in the research phase here, so we needed to look to Europe. We found a supplier in France who could arrange the hemp, binder and hemp insulation in one container, and then we had to have the particle board made in China.
Also learning to use the materials and to train artisans who had only ever built with brick and mortar was a challenge, so there was a bit of trial and error, but it is not rocket science.
INHABITAT: You’ve had an interesting journey with the South African government. Can you describe in a nutshell some of the challenges you have faced?
Tony Budden: The SA government has been fairly unstable since there have been a lot of changes at both ministerial and departmental levels: we invested a lot of effort creating allies in the necessary departments only to find them move elsewhere as things were getting going, and then we would have to start again with the replacement.
Also, getting them to stick their neck out and support the project publicly is always hard, as they are so conscious of the marijuana issue and fear that supporting hemp could somehow be used against them.
Having the Department of Health control the permits for research is also a drawback as they naturally assume that you are growing a drug and the permit is still a “Permit to do research on a Narcotic Drug”. This is our priority to change.
INHABITAT: But you have also had some success in illuminating the benefits of hemp. Can you say how?
Tony Budden: We have made it our mission to change the mindsets regarding hemp by a “show and tell” campaign, or as our tagline says “Innovate Educate Cultivate.” To this end, we have created a brand that produces everything from clothing to body-care products to construction materials.
We have been very active in the media (one of the shows uploaded on youtube has been syndicated far and wide and is receiving more hits all the time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxkDUBj3riY), and attended trade fairs all around the country. Now that the house is built, bringing people here to experience for themselves, as well as those that read about it, is opening up a whole new level of awareness.