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   Inside Out - South West: Monday January 23, 2006

Shelterbox

People in Pakistan following earthquake
Pakistan in need - Shelterbox is providing crucial aid
Photo - Associated Press

Inside Out updates the story of the Helston-based charity, Shelterbox, which sends out "survival boxes" to disaster areas.

We look at how their work is benefiting victims of the Pakistan earthquake as winter takes its grip on the region.

We follow Mark Pearson's visit as he returns to Pakistan to see what progress is being made.

Shelter in a box

Shelterbox helps to bring shelter and beds to people who have become homeless in disasters around the world.

On October 8, 2005 more than 73,000 people died in the Pakistan earthquake.

Tens of thousands were injured and up to three million were left homeless.

In the aftermath of the disaster, Shelterbox sprung into action.

Dozens of Shelterbox volunteers worked around the clock in their warehouse in South West England to get hundreds of boxes out to victims of the South Asia earthquake.

The aid comes in the form of a single survival box containing tents, sleeping bags, cooking and building tools.

Vital support

These ShelterBoxes have become invaluable especially to those in the higher altitudes enduring the harshest weather in many years.

People in the area affected by the earthquake are desperate for shelter.

Snow has fallen and weather conditions are predicted to get much worse.

The crucial support of charities such as Shelterbox can be seen on the ground.

One woman who lost her husband in the earthquake was left without any source of income and a son to look after.

Thanks to the ShelterBox, she has just received a tent, a valuable lifeline for a family who have lost everything.

But there's still much more to be done

Race against time

Mark Pearson has been working with the Shelterbox distribution team.

Hundreds of their boxes have already been distributed by the NRSP (National Rural Support Programme of Pakistan).

National Project Director Malik Fetah Kahn said: "these ShelterBoxes are invaluable especially to those in the higher altitudes as they have to endure the harshest weather for the longest time".

Yet more boxes are being distributed by United Nations Humanitarian Air Services to Paras, a remote mountain top village situated 1000ft above Balakot.

There are currently 1200 families out of which 800 families had no shelter so we are concentrating our efforts there until the mountain is covered.

But it's a race against time to get aid to the remotest areas before winter sets in.

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Hemp

Hemp crop
From pop stars' drug of choice to Devon's farming saviour - hemp

There's a crop that was once so essential farmers were told they had to grow it.

It was later considered so dangerous it was banned. Now it's making a comeback.

Inside Out investigates the comeback of hemp, now being heralded as a saviour for South West farmers.

Industrial hemp

It's surprising to see acres and acres of hemp in North Devon.

This is the plant that was once seen as a dope smoker's dream - although this version is quite different.

This is industrial hemp, and Devon boasts one of the largest farms of its kind in Britain.

It's a crop that could have a big future, and other farmers are keeping a keen eye on its progress.

We visit Henry Braham and Glynis Murray as they prepare to harvest their latest hemp crop.

In another life Henry and Glyn are movie makers - they made Waking Ned, the Land Girls and Nelly MacPhee.

Eight years ago they bought their dream home in the country and it came with a small piece of land.

What should they do with it? They decided on hemp - they now have 1,600 acres of the crop.

They've also taken a big gamble and released their own hemp oil which is now sold in top supermarkets and London food stores.

History of hemp

Hemp is not exactly a new crop. It disappeared completely from our fields for half a century, but at one time it was considered essential.

Worker in hemp field
From straw to saloon cars and hemp oil... a versatile crop

Elizabeth 1st made it compulsory. It was important for a navy dependent on rope and sail.

Hemp growing was also a vital part of the war effort.

But farmers growing hemp needed a special licence - because cannabis had been illegal since 1925.

After the war synthetics took over and hemp went into decline again.

It's now making a comeback because a new strain has been bred which contains negligible amounts of THC - the bit that gets drug users high.

Even then, you still need a special licence to grow it.

Hemp is a versatile plant. Paper, textiles, building materials, detergent, oil, ink, and fuel can be made from it.

It can also be grown in most locations and climates with only moderate water and fertilizer requirements.

Henry and Glyn's dried straw is rolled into bales and sent away for processing.

It also finds its way into another form of transport, in Germany, where it goes inside the door panels of an upmarket saloon car.

Hemp harvest

Inside Out visits the hemp fields during the harvesting period when the seeds are at their peak.

The combine harvester removes the seeds from the top of the plant.

A mower follows behind to cut down the stalks, which are then left to ret - a natural process that sees the stringy outside of the stalk separate from its woody core.

Hemp  field
Harvesting hemp - a serious business

But it's the seeds - ignored by most hemp growers in the past - that Henry and Glyn are really after.

They've launched their own brand of hemp oil and are now following it with a range of other products.

Henry is not the only one pleased with the results of his hemp growing operation.

When he started he was all on his own but now it provides work for eight people including his neighbour Francis, who was at rock bottom after he lost his animals to the foot and mouth tragedy.

Every part of the plant gets used. Even the woody core comes back to Henry and Glyn as horse bedding.

And as well as providing enough oil for 2,000 bottles a week, this plant also produces protein rich hemp cake, which can be used as cattle feed or as fish bait.

It's good news for farmers looking to diversify their crops.

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