World No Tobacco Day 2023 in Kenya

World No Tobacco Day 2023 in Kenya

Celebration of World No Tobacco Day 2023 in Migori County, Kenya

His Excellency the Governor of Migori County, esteemed members of both the National and County Governments present, partners from the Food And Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program, the UN Capital Development Fund and Un Convention on Combating Desertification, colleagues from the World Health Organization, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon.

On behalf of the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, I am very proud to be here today celebrating World No Tobacco Day 2023 in Migori County, Kenya.

The theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day, Grow Food, no Tobacco could not have arrived at a better time.

Article 17 of the Convention states that Parties shall, in cooperation with each other and with competent international and regional intergovernmental organizations, promote, as appropriate, economically viable alternatives for tobacco workers, growers and, as the case may be, individual sellers.

And that is exactly what this experience in Kenya is doing through a joint initiative of the national and county authorities, supported by international organizations: WHO, FAO and WFP and most importantly: the farmers.

The WHO FCTC is a legally binding treaty, that is based on the right of all people to the highest standard of health. It contains science-based measures that can help to stop the unnecessary toll of death and disease caused by tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

One of these measures –  Article 17 – has so far been one of the least implemented articles of the Convention. While the demand for tobacco leaves will not drop or disappear overnight, governments have the responsibility of thinking ahead and begin the process of reconversion.

But even beyond that, growing tobacco is not providing decent work conditions and income to farmers. I I do not need to further explain here, the problems related to tobacco farming, a crop that is labor intensive, usually requiring the work of the whole family – children included – since as I heard yesterday from a tobacco farmer, the plants don’t wait. From the health perspective, the green tobacco sickness from handling the leaves, the exposure to high amounts of pesticides and to the smoke during the curing process are some of the problems.  And adding to that, an industry’s predatory practices, selling overpriced inputs, and manipulating the final price of the leaf.

The idea of tobacco growing as an economic benefit for countries, is not true either.  The big money resulting from these commercial activities goes to the industries overseas, and the countries are left to bear the environmental costs of tobacco: degraded soils, deforestation, desertification and overuse of water.

But Kenya in general, and Migori county in particular are showing to the world that a change is possible, and that change is improving the livelihood of farmers, giving them a better income with less labor, allowing a better future for their families, particularly children that are not required to work in tobacco fields and instead can go to school and can also provide some relief to the pressing problem of food insecurity.

In closing, let me encourage farmers that have not done so yet, to consider switching to the alternatives provided, and urge national and county governments to support farmers in this transition and to stop any subsidies for tobacco farming.

Thank you very much, and congratulations to Migori County Government and particularly farmers, for daring to stop growing tobacco.

Source: WHO FCTC