Leonce Dieudonne SESSOU, Executive Secretary of the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), On World No Tobacco Day, urges African governments to prioritize sustainable agriculture over tobacco cultivation.
He emphasizes the need for collaboration with civil society and international organizations to provide better opportunities for tobacco farmers while addressing food security challenges across the continent.
In accordance with Article 17 of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which emphasizes the promotion of economically viable alternatives for tobacco workers, growers, and sellers, SESSOU calls on African governments to learn from successful initiatives and implement similar strategies to support their own farmers.
“The prevalence of tobacco farming has been on the rise in Africa since 2005, with tobacco companies gaining a stronger presence on the continent.
However, the adverse impacts of tobacco cultivation on farmers, the economy, and the environment cannot be overlooked. Tobacco companies often provide loans to farmers who lack the necessary resources, creating a cycle of debt that perpetuates poverty among farmers”.
Nevertheless, he reveals that there are positive examples that demonstrate a viable path forward. “The Tobacco-Free Farms initiative, supported by the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Food Programme (WFP), is successfully assisting over 5,000 farmers in Kenya and Zambia to transition from tobacco to sustainable food crops. Notably, in Kenya’s Migori County, more than 2,000 farmers have made a successful shift to cultivating high-iron beans over the past three growing seasons.
This transition has yielded promising outcomes. Farmers engaged in sustainable agriculture have reported higher incomes from selling their produce to the WFP, along with improvements in their overall health”.
In addition to this, he said the move away from tobacco cultivation has contributed to increased school attendance among children who were previously engaged in tobacco farming. “From an environmental standpoint, sustainable crop cultivation has shown to have a positive impact, contributing to a healthier ecosystem compared to tobacco production.
The success of the Tobacco-Free Farms initiative highlights the potential of collaborative efforts at the global, regional, and national levels in providing alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers, as outlined in the WHO FCTC. Given Africa’s pressing food security challenges, governments are encouraged to draw inspiration from these initiatives and take proactive steps”.
He furthers adds that It is imperative for African governments to prioritize sustainable agriculture over tobacco cultivation, fostering economic stability, public health, and environmental sustainability.
“By shifting the focus towards sustainable agriculture, Africa can address its food security challenges while ensuring the well-being of its communities.
African governments, in collaboration with civil society organizations and international bodies, play a crucial role in supporting farmers during the transition away from tobacco farming.
It is important to provide farmers with the necessary resources, knowledge, and training to cultivate alternative crops that can contribute to food security and improve livelihoods”.