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

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop illegal money flow from continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development 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.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky 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