Zimbabwe’s forcibly evicted white commercial farmers, some who were tobacco farmers and parcelled out land to peasant blacks from the year 2000 in one of the most disastrous land policies ever witnessed.
The farming of tobacco was sold to the unfortunate farmers as the golden leaf or magic wand to richness.
In reality, this was false as no one warned the poor farmers that they were only signing up to future difficulties.
The truth is that tobacco is now a liability as in less than half a century there will be almost no demand for tobacco products.
A typical example of what will happen , is the fact that the world in general is coming up with greater health conscious initiatives such as health policies that are squeezing the production, sale and use of the health hazard that is tobacco by people.
Tobacco is a known drain of national health budgets because of its addictive nature and high costs to poor family budgets in society. A country like Zimbabwe would rightly urge farmers to go into tobacco farming but the truth is that Tobacco contributes highly to Zimbabwe’s budget so unless and until the government seek alternative crop farming they will claim tobacco farming is great.
We all know that the growth of tobacco is highly detrimental to soil fertility where ever it is grown and tobacco massively contributes towards deforestation as land is continuously cleared for tobacco and massive amounts of firewood are used in tobacco processing.
The returns may be lucrative to the grower for now, but it contributes massively to a serious decline in health standards of tobacco products users, land degradation, deforestation and poor soil fertility, while by default leading to a major decline in food stability.
The government of Zimbabwe must look at sustainable alternatives for the future such as steering away from tobacco as a major contributor to the national budget, because the money is still chanelled towards the health budget to look after victims of tobacco health created crisis.
There are other serious health hazards such as pesticides used and risks to tobacco farm labourers.
The global climate is deteriorating and food sustainability is fast falling. so we should be ahead in seeking alternative crops to Tobacco. training farming communities in producing alternatives and teaching people about the health benefits of walking away from tobacco and looking at alternatives crops. I will go into detail soon and I speak with confidence on this as I spent three years at the University of Zimbabwe, majoring in economics and Agricultural extension and then became the Department of Agriculture and Technical Extension Specialist (AGRITEX) Training Specialist, responsible for staff and farmer literature , 1994 to 1996. In this role I travelled into the deepest and most remote areas corner to corner across Zimbabwe, throughout commercial and communal farming areas while I was responsible for producing and presenting a total of 7 Radio Programmes on ZBC National Radios 1, 2 and 4.
These programmes were, 1) Agritex Farm Diary on radio 1, 2)Tinokushevedzai varimi 3) Nhau Dzevarimi 4) Kuchengetedzwa kwezvipfuwo 5) Sibiza abalimi, 6) Ukugcinwa kwezifuyo and 7) Izindaba zabalimi. As a nation, we should now all be pushing for government to shut down tobacco production on health grounds and terminate the deforestation and other healthissues associated with it. We should think about the future,.all our children, coloured, black, white, any race or tribe,…it starts with you saying NO to Tobacco! The government must be pressed by the electorate to stop funding tobacco production, stop purchasing tobacco from farmers and legislate against the production of tobacco, if not criminalise tobacco production.
Tobacco farming is simply hazardous in every way one looks at it, be it health wise to those handling and being exposed to pesticides in the farming, a threat to climate change because of the deforestation caused by Tobacco. If the government could implement a 51% ownership scheme in favour of indegenous people where ever a foreign company wanted to invest in business, then they can easily enforce a punitive heavy farming tax on all tobacco growers, transporters, exporters and tobacco auction floors and any business activity linked to tobacco including shops selling tobacco products, banks funding tobacco farming and any sales related to farming implements, and agricultural chemicals targeted at tobacco farming.
The government must also look at heavy taxation and withdrawal of funding from agricultural institutions that farm tobacco, while also immediately withdrawing tobacco farming from all agricultural institutions,..simply ban tobacco by shutting down the crop and ensuring that it becomes non viable to associate one with tobacco. From primary school, children must be taught regularly and thouroughly about the long term and life changing health hazards associated with tobacco.
It would be helpful if the government can actually divert the proceeds from the heavy taxation on tobacco to the health system and let the tobacco farmers share the burden of treating patients who become ill as a result of tobacco whether by being smokers or indirectly through secondary intake of tobacco smoke. People’s lives must be put first before profits by those who have no thought about not only their welfare but that of all our children, future descendants of all race and colour. Opposition must make it clear to people how they will work towards resolving this mess.
The same principle is applicable in any system causing public health hazards and affecting the lives of the ordinary people who usually have limited or no choices in life. An example is sugar, starting from farming sugar cane as sugar is a source of diabetes and is simply not an affordable health bill on the government, medical aid societies and the people affected.
We can argue the same again in alcohol, a source of life destruction through accidents, fights, disputes and other. In that respect, punitive heavy farming tax on all sorghum growers who sell or use, transporters, exporters and alcohol producers and any business activity linked to alcohol, including shops selling alcohol, banks funding sorghum farming designed for any sales related to alcohol production.
The last twenty years of Zimbabwe’s entropy have left the nation heavily exposed to horrendous disasters which need a people oriented heavy handed turnaround, that puts the interests of the people first. It is not rocket science that everyone seeks a health life and safe environment and a great future for all out=r children, coloured, black, white and any race or tribe.
People need food from the land, not deforestation, not smoke hazard from tobacco,…no action or clearly set out manifesto on this and no vote,….The people don’t know their true power,..use it and bring the much needed change! Don’t give away your vote for no reason, no matter how much you love the leader. It is not the leader who matters but the manifesto and what the leader can lead his or her party to deliver for the people and change their lives positively.
We need to bring all leaders to account for their promises in the manifesto and if no delivery on the manifesto, then its goodbye to them,..no need to wait for their mandate to expire! The main reason why I touch on Agriculture is that it is an area that has been allowed to be lawless ever since the disastrous Zanu pf land reform programme of the early 2000. We need to restore order, shape the future by pushing for changes and policies that put the people’s interest at heart,..in our case, health and safety and the future of the planet.
Wake up Zimbabwe, have to all think about tomorrow,….DISCUSS! By Sibusiso Ngwenya