The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation in Africa (CAPPA) reports that 8 million people die each year globally from tobacco usage and its health-related effects, along with the annual loss of 600 million trees. The call came from CAPPA executive director Akinbode Oluwafemi at an event in Lagos commemorating World No Tobacco Day with the theme, “We need Food, Not Tobacco”. He said that narratives told by its former farmers in Oke-Ogun show the unfortunate reality of how the industry behaves toward these important contributors of it to the global supply chain.
Oluwafemi revealed that the field trip to Oke-Ogun revealed the hardships situation encountered by the local farming community as a result of the decline in producing tobacco and that these farmers, who were once dependent on tobacco cultivation, are now attempting to adapt to an alternate way of life with substitute crops like maize, cassava, and yams. He lamented that despite their best efforts, these farmers often had to fend for themselves due to a lack of resources such as capital, farming equipment, and access to markets.
Many health complications and environmental damages are recorded.
On numerous occasions, they have emphasized the potentially hazardous effects of tobacco farming. As a result of the cultivation of tobacco, which requires the use of pesticides that are hazardous to farmers, the cutting down and burning of trees for the purpose of curing it, which results in the destruction of approximately 3.5 million hectares of land each year, and the utilize of a significant amount of water to grow tobacco, the health of both humans and the ecosystem is adversely affected, as is the climate’s ability to withstand the effects of climate change.
He expressed major concerns over the persistent health problems experienced by these farmers as a result of their long-term exposure to it and its associated chemicals, and he revealed that, due to a lack of access to medical care, these problems go largely unaddressed, with many farmers instead turning to obsolete and ineffective traditional remedies. Oluwafemi argued that the people of Oke-Ogun needed better access to healthcare, particularly for the ageing population of older farmers, with an emphasis on the avoidance and treatment of illness related to tobacco farming.
Adequate support and funding are needed for the concerned farmers.
In light of these developments, he put out the idea that the federal government need to offer significant assistance to farmers in their transition away from the cultivation of tobacco and towards the cultivation of other crops. This might include monetary assistance, affordable agricultural loans, and other types of insurance products. According to him, this would provide farmers with the financial means to shift to new crops and safeguard them against losses that could not have been predicted.
Furthermore, the federal government ought to conduct an investigation into the disengagement contracts that the country signed with local tobacco farmers in light of an infringement of the terms that several of the farmers have alleged; it ought to promote the formation of Farmers’ cooperatives to strengthen their ability to collectively bargain when deciding on prices for crops and to safeguard them against market instabilities; and it ought to encourage diversification of crops initiatives that could offer farmers with substitutes to tobacco farming.
Farmers should be encouraged to transition to substitute farming.
Moreover, the director of CAPPA’s programmes, Phillip Jakpor, made a similar appeal to the federal government, urging them to develop initiatives to encourage its farmers to shift their focus to other crops that could improve their health and the health of their communities and the environment. Following this year’s theme, he argued that the government should provide assistance to the farmers by funding programmes that encourage them to shift their attention from its production to the cultivation of sustainable food crops.