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June 22, 2011

Small-scale tobacco farming in Africa: A vicious circle

by Feri Gwata

There is growing interest in tobacco farming in many rural communities in Africa despite the growing criticisms against. With rainfall increasingly erratic, the production of food crops has declined so farmers tobacco as a risk management strategy. In comparison to traditional food crops, tobacco market prices tend to be significantly higher.

However, small-scale tobacco farmers find themselves in a vicious circle. While tobacco farming affords them the opportunity to increase household income in the short term, it is inextricably linked to ecosystem degradation.

The main variety grown by small-scale farmers in developing countries requires an energy-intensive drying process (curing) in specialised barns which are usually fuelled by wood. Curing results in extensive deforestation. Both deforestation and the burning of fuels contribute significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In addition, because tobacco plants are highly susceptible to diseases, tobacco farming entails the extensive use of pesticides which contribute to land pollution. Against this backdrop, this paper discusses the development conundrum: can small-scale farmers strike a balance between economic development and environmental conservation?

full paper...Consultancy Africa

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