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 Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

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