The Kenya Tobacco Control Board (TCB) has added its voice to the initiative to adopt alternative crops in tobacco-growing areas, saying the growth of tobacco is a threat to the environment. Speaking in Kakamega, Dr. John Musau, a TCB board member, regretted that tobacco farmers were left with acidic and unproductive soils after years of growing the cash crop without an alternative.
“Many talk about the harm of the tobacco smoke but what is less shared is how destructive tobacco cultivation and tobacco use is for the environment – on land, water, and air,” he said. “One thing we realized in areas like Migori and Bungoma where tobacco farming is practiced is that there was massive deforestation as people cleared forests to plant the crop. Worse still, they use the cleared wood to dry tobacco leaves, therefore, polluting the air.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) statistics show that tobacco farming causes up to 5 percent of global deforestation, with 200,000 hectares of natural wood biomass lost each year.
Mr. Musau’s sentiments come as an ambitious Tobacco-Free Farms project takes root in tobacco-growing areas of Migori and Bungoma. The project, a joint initiative of the State, WHO, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, involve farmers abandoning tobacco production and growing high-iron beans as an alternative crop.
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