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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid