Stop growing tobacco, grow food instead, calls on WHO
On the eve of World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday 31 May, WHO deplores the fact that 3.2 million hectares of fertile land in 124 countries are used to grow deadly tobacco. even where people are starving.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that governments around the world are “spending millions to support tobacco farms” and that choosing to grow food over tobacco will allow peace “prioritize health, conserve ecosystems and enhance food security for all”.
Catastrophe for food, environmental safety
agencies new report“Grow food, not tobacco” recalls that a record 349 million people face acute food insecurity, many of them in about 30 countries on the African continent, where tobacco cultivation increased by 15 percent in the last decade.
According to WHO, nine of the 10 largest tobacco manufacturers are in low- and middle-income countries. tobacco growing exacerbates the food security problems of these countries by taking over arable land. The environment and the communities that depend on it are also suffering as crop expansion leads to deforestation, pollution of water sources and soil degradation.
The vicious cycle of addiction
The report also exposes the tobacco industry capture of farmers into a vicious circle of addiction and exaggeration of the economic benefits of tobacco as a cash crop.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva on Friday, Dr Rüdiger Kretsch, WHO Director of Health Promotion, warned that The economic importance of tobacco is “a myth that we urgently need to dispel.”.
He said the crop contributes less than 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in most tobacco-growing countries and that the profits go to the world’s largest cigarette producers as farmers struggle with the burden of debt they have with tobacco companies. companies.
“Smokers, think twice”
Dr. Krech also explained that tobacco farmers are being poisoned by nicotine and dangerous pesticides. The broader impact on communities and entire societies is devastating, as some 1.3 million working children estimated to work on tobacco farms instead of going to school, he said.
“A message to smokers: think twice,” said Dr. Krech, as tobacco use was reduced to supporting the unfair situation that farmers and their families were suffering.
Break the cycle
WHO, together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) united around Tobacco free farms an initiative to help thousands of farmers in countries like Kenya and Zambia grow sustainable food crops instead of tobacco.
The program provides farmers microcredit to pay off their debts to tobacco companies; and knowledge and training in growing alternative crops and market their crops through WFP’s local procurement initiatives.
Dr. Krech said the program was a “proof of concept” the power of the UN system to free farmers from the harmful cultivation of tobacco. He laid out ambitious plans to expand the program as countries in Asia and South America have already applied for support.
“We can help every farmer in the world to stop growing tobacco if they so desire,” he said.