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 Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
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 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 Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
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.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid