African tobacco farmers from a cross-section of countries, concluded a two-day International Tobacco Growers Association Africa Regional Meeting on Wednesday by issuing a declaration of opposition to the proposals that threaten the regionâ€™s jobs and local economies.
The declaration from agricultural leaders from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania came in response to draft proposals from the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The FCTC recommends, among other things, that governments phase out tobacco farming by limiting the land where it can be grown and endorsing the dismantling of all bodies relating governments with growersâ€”such as the tobacco boardsâ€”thus putting farmersâ€™ livelihoods at risk while failing to offer an economically viable alternative crop.
Antonio Abrunhosa, chief executive officer of the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), who addressed the regional meeting Wednesday in a media brief said farmers in the region are united in opposing the FCTC proposals.
“Thereâ€™s now a unified voice throughout Southern and East Africa thatâ€™s determined to protect the land, the jobs, and the communities sustained by tobacco farming.”
The ITGA represents more than 30 million tobacco farmers around the world.
African tobacco farmers provide a stable living for millions of people throughout the region and their crops are a vital source of foreign revenue for many of these countries.
Here in Malawi for example, seven out of 10 workers are either directly or indirectly employed by the sector and tobacco represents 70 percent of foreign exchange earnings and accounts for 15 percent of total GDP.
Francois van der Merwe, chairperson of ITGA Africa Region, said the unified voice of these farmers affirms the defence of their right to grow tobacco and the crucial role it plays in the regionâ€™s economy.
“These farmers are prepared to stand up to this 21st century imperialism from a body comprising mainly health officials who are out of touch with the farming sector and who are putting our economy at risk,” he indicated.
Jorge Nestor, the Argentinean President of ITGA, reaffirmed the unshakeable support of tobacco growers from all over the world to the African growers and their unanimous decision to defend the right to produce the crop that better assures their economic prosperity.
The ITGA is a non-profit organisation that works to advance the cause of millions of tobacco farmers to the world.
It strives to provide a strong collective voice on an international and national scale in order to ensure the long-term security of tobacco farming communities.