The news that the International Tobacco Control (ITC) feared that the anti-tobacco lobby may push hundreds of thousands of tobacco farmers into poverty if the current campaign to end demand for tobacco and its product went ahead should not depress Zambia’s tobacco growers because they have  alternative cash crops to grow like sunflower (Daily Nation, December 30, 2015).

In Zambia, sunflower is an important cash crop alternative to tobacco that could generate ready-income for many rural households whose lives previously depended on tobacco cultivation. Even though tobacco in Zambia created employment for people who were involved in tobacco activities and service delivery, the anti-tobacco lobby’s winds of

change have blown through the ITC’s relevance providing an opportunity for the sunflower oil extractive industry players to take over.

The Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) as well, needs a serious rethink over the tobacco industry’s future in Zambia and the over 450,000 employees engaged throughout the supply chain, including the 23,000 tobacco growing families’ future livelihoods.  But just before TBZ makes up its mind about what it wants to do with its future, let me warn the TBZ officials in advance that the much hyped anti-tobacco lobby mantra would not remain empty words that mean nothing to the majority of those most affected by the harms of tobacco and second-hand smoke.

Besides, food like cooking oil extracted from sunflower is key.  And indeed, the PF government seemingly admits that economic access to food has become a decisive factor in food security. For the poorest communities, whether rural or urban, food is their main expenditure item and not tobacco cigarettes. This applies to all countries regardless of their level of economic and agricultural development.

Food insecurity is first and foremost about poverty and inequalities.

So, why should the government let Zambian tobacco farmers face a bleak future when there are alternative cash crops like sunflower? LM, Lusaka

Categorized | Letters

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