Farmer's Voice

African tobacco farmers oppose WHO ban (The Herald - Zimbabwe)

Tobacco growers opposed the ultimate eradication of tobacco growing as recommended by WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control draft policy.

The growers emphasised the need for African governments to assist tobacco farmers that are affected by the drop in demand for the crop as a result of smoking reduction strategies and changing consumer preferences.

"By restricting the available land for tobacco farming, denying farmers political and commercial rights to engage with governments through tobacco boards or commissions and ban leaf auctions, these advocate groups directly threaten jobs and livelihoods of millions of farm families worldwide," said ITGA in a statement.

"We are concerned that, while some working group members push for a cap on tobacco production and restriction on the amount of land available to tobacco farming, the FCTC has failed to provide credible options for governments seeking to help farmers diversify to other viable crops or livelihoods in anticipation of a potential reduction in demand for tobacco.

"We note with great concern that the working group responsible for these proposals is being driven by health officers with little to no real world knowledge of agriculture, tobacco farming, or the challenges faced by farmers and farm workers living in rural areas," said ITGA.

The ITGA challenged the FCTC to involve the tobacco farming communities at every stage of policy development and implementation.

The association urged governments to defend the interests of tobacco farmers that provide employment and income for many African farmers and families by rejecting the draft policy recommendations for Articles 17 and 18 and urging other governments to reject recommendations that destroy tobacco farmers' livelihoods;

"We urge governments to request the Working Group for Articles 17 and 18 to revise its draft policy recommendations, to seek input from tobacco farmers' organisations and agricultural policy specialists on specific, detailed and credible options for diversification with alternative crops," ITGA said.

The association challenged tobacco farming communities to collectively defend their land, jobs and livelihood from efforts to deny the right to produce the legal crops that better assure their economic prosperity.

"We reaffirm the right of farmers to choose to grow tobacco for a living and recognise that tobacco provides a secure and stable income for hundreds of thousands of African farmers," said the association.

The ITGA represents millions of tobacco workers and farming communities in Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. The association recognises that tobacco has been produced in Africa for generations and acknowledges its contribution to rural employment and economic development.

Elita Chikwati , Agriculture Reporter
in The Herald - Zimbabwe 14 June 2012