As the world marks no tobacco day today, the industry has been blamed for aggravating the food and health crises already plaguing the country.
Corporate Accountability and Public Participation, CAPPA, raised the alarm at a media roundtable in Lagos, yesterday, stressing that they theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day – We Need Food Not Tobacco – aligns with the thrust of its anti-tobacco campaign over the years.
In his welcome address at the roundtable, Philip Jakpor, Programmes Director at CAPPA, said: “Our conviction, supported by science, (is) that tobacco cultivation pr,ocesses, from clearing of large tracts of land, cutting trees for tobacco curing, and cigarette manufacturing, … contribute to climate change and … threaten food security.”
Jakpor added that the World Health Organisation, WHO, was raising awareness about the ways the tobacco interferes with attempts to substitute tobacco growing with sustainable crops.
Therefore, “We decided to visit tobacco-growing communities in Oyo State to interact with farmers and see for ourselves,” he added.
During the screening of video interviews with former tobacco farmers in Oke-Ogun, Oyo State, Zikora Ibeh, CAPPA’s Research & Policy Officer, noted that nothing the tobacco firms did was in the interest of the farmers.
Ibeh added that there was no reforestation programme, while the much-touted transitional scheme alleged by the tobacco firm was non-existent, leaving those who still grew tobacco at the mercy of faceless individuals that fix the prices of their produce.
Dr. Olayinka Oyegbile of Development Strategies made the point that there was so much disinformation going on in the industry.
He said the farmers’ claim that there were no buyers for cassava and other crops cannot be true; but a product of brainwashing by the tobacco firm.
Elaborating on findings in Oke-Ogun community, CAPPA’s Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said the question that must be asked is where the tobacco firms are getting their leaves from if they claim to have stopped patronising Nigerian farmers.
He added: “Another profound concern is the lingering health issues among these farmers due to years of exposure to tobacco and its associated chemicals.
“With limited access to healthcare, these concerns remain largely unaddressed with many of these farmers resorting to inappropriate and ineffective traditional measures to manage their tobacco-induced health complications.”
Oluwafemi then listed the recommendations CAPPA proposes to the Federal Government to stem the food and health crises:
Provide substantial support to farmers in their transition from tobacco farming to other crops. This could include financial aid, affordable agricultural loans and insurance products.
This would give farmers the financial means to transition to new crops and protect them from unforeseen losses.
Investigate the disengagement contracts tobacco firms signed with local tobacco farmers in view of a breach of the terms which some of the farmers alleged.
Disclose total acreage allocated to tobacco farming in Oke-Ogun, and entire Nigeria.
Compel tobacco firms to carry out a verifiable afforestation programme in the entire Oke-Ogun axis to make up for decades of depleted ecosystem.
Support the establishment of farmers’ cooperatives to bolster their collective bargaining power when negotiating prices for crops and insulate them against market fluctuations.
Support crop diversification programmes that can provide farmers with alternatives to tobacco farming. This program would provide resources to farmers to grow crops that are not only profitable but also sustainable and beneficial for the health of the land and people.
The selection of these crops should take into consideration local soil, climate conditions, and market demand.
Investment in local infrastructure such as irrigation systems, storage facilities, and transportation networks to aid the farming community.
This would allow farmers to cultivate their crops more efficiently and facilitate access to markets and improve the bargaining power of farmers, and
Adequate health services should be made available to the Oke-Ogun community, especially for the ageing population of former tobacco farmers, while focusing on the prevention and treatment of ailments related to tobacco farming.