Orocabessa Fish Sanctuary

Bob Marley’s image has been repackaged, rebranded and regurgitated around the globe – plastered across T-shirts and keychains, coffee mugs and mouse pads – almost always accompanied by a green, red and gold cannabis leaf. But such a simplified version of his legacy tends to risk obscuring the bigger picture.

Marley Natural is working to make Bob Marley a three-dimensional character again. The brand, which was launched by the Marley family in LA earlier this year, produces all-natural, locally sourced, sun-grown cannabis buds and oil in green, gold, red and black – as well as a selection of sophisticated smoking accessories and body-care products infused with cold-pressed hemp seed oil and natural botanicals. It also aims to expand understanding of Bob Marley’s vision by focusing on causes he was truly passionate about.

Marley and his music have been an integral part of the cannabis movement for decades. He called cannabis ‘the herb’ and passionately promoted its health and spiritual benefits. Now in this time of rapid change regarding cannabis laws, the Marley family have chosen to join the conversation surrounding marijuana. The company uses Bob’s famous quote –“Herb is a plant. Herb is good for everything”– as its slogan.

The brand’ s approach mirrors the seriousness with which the world is now considering cannabis. Stephen Marley, Bob’s son, says: “It’s not a ‘get high’ thing. People are getting educated about this plant… what the plant is, was and what it has to offer.” By extension, Marley Natural’ s products are not gimmicky, but rather sophisticated and timeless – especially the smoking storage and prep products made from American black walnut wood. The beauty products promote the benefits of hemp seed oil, which is rich in essential fatty acids and omega oils. One of the brand’ s representatives explains: “Most people have very limited knowledge of cannabis. Prohibition has caused a lack of education surrounding the plant and its many forms.”

Despite what many may assume, Jamaica only recently revised its national drug law, decriminalising the possession of under two ounces of cannabis, creating provisions for its medical, scientific and therapeutic use and allowing the Rastafari community to use it for religious purposes.

Marley Natural products are currently only available to buy in the US, with specialty retailers in Jamaica stocking the beauty goods. But the company hopes to expand to Jamaica. When the regulatory framework for medical cannabis is confirmed, they plan to bring Marley Natural to the market in a way that respects Jamaican culture and contributes positively to Jamaica’ s ganja growers. They have travelled extensively in Jamaica, with many of the staff hailing from the Caribbean, and have connected with the cannabis-growing community, visiting farms with the likes of native singer Chronixx.

Bob Marley’s vision for an inclusive and compassionate global community in which we take care of each other and the environment is at the root of Marley Natural’ s quest. The singer was a strong advocate of social change and his repertoire of protest songs – Get Up, Stand Up, Simmer Down, Concrete Jungle, Them Belly Full (But We Hungry) – offer a wealth of evidence about his views. Marley Natural believes a commitment to Bob Marley’s vision means addressing issues in Jamaica today, including youth unemployment and the high level of food importation that has had a devastating effect on the farming community. Through the brand’ s initiative Rise Up, which supports local environmental programmes and farming non-profits, they hope to inspire the younger generations in Jamaica to see entrepreneurial opportunities in their rich land.

Rise Up supports three programmes: The Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary, Farm Up Jamaica and the Golden Valley Farmers’ Group. The fish sanctuary was established in 1995 by the Oracabessa Fishermen’s Group to advocate sustainable community development and clean, green environmental renewal. Jamaica’s waters are some of the most overfished in the world and many farmers are suffering from a reduced income owing to a smaller catch. The sanctuary aims to increase bio-diversity and works with local fishermen to introduce sustainable practices and safe fishing. In the past four years, the project’ s efforts have seen an increase in fish biomass and coral coverage, as well as a significant reduction in algae. There has also been a 100 per cent increase in pounds of fish every fisherman has caught.

Farm Up Jamaica Ltd is a non-profit on a mission to reduce imports of foreign food. Jamaica imports $1billion worth of food a year due to inactivity within the agricultural sector; agriculture students have few if any opportunities and the profession is slowly diminishing. Farm Up Jamaica works to cultivate and distribute high-quality organic produce and inspire the next generation of farmers. They secure markets locally and internationally, subsidise preparation of land, build access roads, improve machinery and irrigation, provide seeds, harvesting equipment and help transport the food to buyers.

The final programme, Golden Valley Farmers’ Group, provides another avenue for employment. It is located in in the parish of St Thomas, one of the poorest areas on the island where drastic changes in rainfall have disrupted traditional coffee and cocoa farming. The group is building a honey processing unit from a repurposed shipping container. Their long-term vision is to provide agricultural training and business opportunities for young farmers as well as the local community in the areas of harvesting, honey and wax processing, packaging, sales and marketing.

“A worldwide vision for positive change” is printed on the back of all Marley Natural products. By shedding light on positive initiatives and supporting Jamaica’s future, the brand proves this is not another Marley T-shirt. Here photographer Yumna documents the Rise Up initiative and its work on the island.

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