News / Africa

Ugandan Farmers Fighting for Tobacco

Ahamed Mugisa in his drying shed outside Kikoboza, Western Uganda, July 3, 2014. (H. Heuler/VOA News)
Ahamed Mugisa in his drying shed outside Kikoboza, Western Uganda, July 3, 2014. (H. Heuler/VOA News)

The Ugandan parliament is considering a new tobacco control bill that would put strict limits on tobacco marketing and consumption. The measure is popular with health professionals, but the tobacco industry is up in arms, with small-scale tobacco farmers saying the bill will drive them out of business.

In Ahamed Mugisa’s drying shed outside Kikoboza, in the lush fields of Western Uganda, rows of brown, crinkled tobacco leaves whisper and rustle as he makes room for a fresh crop.

Mugisa has been growing tobacco for seven years, ever since his student days.

Thanks to tobacco, he said, he paid for his own education, married a wife, bought a motorbike and a cow, and now sends his two children to school.

He also grows cabbage, but he said tobacco is his best crop because it enjoys a ready market and a stable price. This, he said, lets farmers like him plan for the future.

The Tobacco Control Bill would impose strict limits on marketing tobacco, and bans displaying it in shops, July 4, 2014. (H. Heuler/VOA News)The Tobacco Control Bill would impose strict limits on marketing tobacco, and bans displaying it in shops, July 4, 2014. (H. Heuler/VOA News)
x
The Tobacco Control Bill would impose strict limits on marketing tobacco, and bans displaying it in shops, July 4, 2014. (H. Heuler/VOA News)
The Tobacco Control Bill would impose strict limits on marketing tobacco, and bans displaying it in shops, July 4, 2014. (H. Heuler/VOA News)

Regulating cash crop

But for Ugandan tobacco farmers, the future is less certain than they thought. The Tobacco Control Bill currently before parliament proposes strict limits on marketing and consumption, banning smoking in and around public buildings.  It also prohibits advertising tobacco products, or even displaying cigarettes in shops.

Several neighboring countries have similar laws. Member of Parliament [MP] Chris Baryomunsi, the author of the bill, said these measures are in no way extreme.

“The bill is not intended to ban the growing of tobacco. The bill does not ban smoking. The bill does not curtail the operations of the tobacco industry. But rather, it puts in place a framework for regulation,” he said.

The tobacco industry, however, is up in arms. Among those protesting in front of parliament are small-scale farmers, who argue that the bill would destroy their livelihoods.

Baryomunsi said it is big tobacco companies who are behind the protests.

“The tobacco industry, whenever this kind of legislation is initiated, they usually fight back to undermine the process," he said. "One way they do it is to incite the farmers and give them misleading information for the farmers to think that the bill is against them. This is what has happened in Uganda.”

Competing interests

But Fred Asaba, a tobacco farmer who works with Mugisa, insisted their concerns are real.

Fred Asaba works in a tobacco drying shed outside Kikoboza, Western Uganda, July 3, 2014. (H. Heuler/VOA News)Fred Asaba works in a tobacco drying shed outside Kikoboza, Western Uganda, July 3, 2014. (H. Heuler/VOA News)
x
Fred Asaba works in a tobacco drying shed outside Kikoboza, Western Uganda, July 3, 2014. (H. Heuler/VOA News)
Fred Asaba works in a tobacco drying shed outside Kikoboza, Western Uganda, July 3, 2014. (H. Heuler/VOA News)

If the bill passes, Asaba argued, it will decrease demand for tobacco, which will drive down the price of the raw leaves. He said at the end of the day, it is the small farmers who will suffer.

Although it is a popular crop in his area, Moses Byenkya of the Hoima District Farmers’ Association takes a different view of tobacco.

“It’s not good. It’s labor-intensive -- it takes actually 90 percent of your time, which means you will have problems with food for home consumption. Worst of all, after selling tobacco you go to start buying food using the money that you have from tobacco. You have to go and buy from those people who grow food," said Byenkya.

Many farmers, he said, are lured into growing tobacco by the incentives offered by companies, including agricultural inputs and high-interest loans. He said if the bill passes, it might encourage farmers to look for alternatives that would ultimately benefit them more.

Even Mugisa knows there is a dark side to his bright-leafed crop.

The drying leaves make him cough, he said, enough so that he will not let his children near the tobacco. He also knows that smoking can eventually kill.

But if it becomes impossible to sell his crinkled brown leaves, he added, the government should find another cash crop to take its place.

 

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid