Africa needs food not tobacco

Africa needs food not tobacco

HARARE-Youth Against Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (YADD) held World No Tobacco Day commemorations under the theme ‘‘Africa Needs Food, Not Tobacco,’’ emphasizing on the importance of prioritizing food security over tobacco cultivation and consumption.

World no Tobacco Day commemorations are held every year globally on May 31.

In a Press statement YADD pinpointed the crucial need for tobacco farmers to resort to planting other crops as tobacco is hazardous to health especially to the youth although it may alleviate poverty albeit for short period.

‘‘Tobacco has long term consequences on public health and the environment while it may provide short term economic gains.

‘‘YADD firmly believes that it is high time we shift focus towards promoting food security, improving nutrition, sustainable development and safeguarding the well-being of our citizens, especially the youth,’’ reads part of the statement.

YADD executive director, board member of Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), Tungamirai Zimonte said they are working on making sure that the Government conforms to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and encouraging farmers to consider planting other crops which benefit the health of the citizens as a whole.

‘‘We are focused on advocacy to ensure that our government complies with the FCTC as it is a signatory to the global treaty.

‘‘We are supporting this campaign by ATCA which is encouraging crop substitution in place of tobacco. The idea is to encourage tobacco farmers to move away from cultivating tobacco to cultivating nutritious food crops,’’ said Zimonte.

Tobacco farmer, Janipher Tafirenyika from Mutoko, Huyuyu area said they cannot stop tobacco farming since it is their only source of livelihood.

However, she said if the government finds that tobacco is detrimental to people it would be better if they increase the market price for crops like maize as a substitute to the cash crop.

‘‘We cultivate tobacco because it has more money but we do not depend on tobacco only we grow maize from where we get sadza which is our staple food, soya beans, ground nuts, round nuts, sweet potatoes, sunflower and peas.

‘‘If the government declares that tobacco is causing diseases let them raise prices for other crops such as maize so that we get the same monetary value as tobacco.

‘‘I managed to send my children to school up to tertiary level using the money I got from tobacco farming. As a tobacco farmer I am not worried if there is a good substitute,’’ said Tafirenyika.

Another farmer Irene Murombedzi from Ruwa plots said tobacco farming has been her source of money from childhood.

‘‘I have been a tobacco farmer since I was still a youth, I have managed to acquire a few properties that I have as well as raise my eight children ever since my husband died.  Tobacco is the best option I have to make a living,’’ said Murombedzi.

In a statement by Leonce Dieduonne Sessou, executive secretary of ATCA said that they are encouraging governments to discourage tobacco farming and ensure that there is food security and balanced diet in all countries.

According to research tobacco farmers undergo loses and stay indebted to tobacco loan sharks.

‘‘This year, World No Tobacco Day focuses on encouraging governments to end subsidies on tobacco growing and use the savings for crop substitution programmes that support farmers to switch and improve food security and nutrition.

‘‘Tobacco farmers usually cannot afford resources needed to cultivate the crop and they get loans from tobacco companies. Studies reveal that most contract tobacco famers incur loses, which perpetuates their indebtedness to the tobacco company that provides them with loans,’’ reads part of the statement.

Efforts to get comments from the Minister in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Anxious Masuka and his Permanent Secretary John Basera was to no avail as they did not pick up calls when this publication contacted them.

Dried tobacco leaves are mainly used for smoking in cigarettes and cigars, as well as pipes and shishas. Use of tobacco can cause breathing problems and chronic respiratory conditions, diabetes, heart disease, stroke among others.

The tobacco industry globally has been facing problems such as exploitation of labour, the prevalence of child labour in hazardous working conditions, pest infestation on farms and poor management of farm activities.

Governments and tobacco farmers argue that tobacco farming is lucrative and benefit the economy.

In a statement by World Health Organisation (WHO) it states that nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases with over 20 different types or subtypes of cancer and many other debilitating health conditions caused by smoking.