The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Farmers Oppose Tobacco Ban

Mhondoro — TOBACCO farmers in Mhondoro communal lands have described the World Health Organisation's proposed ban on tobacco production as hypocritical and meant to harm economies not on good terms with countries such as Britain and the United States.

Britain and the United States are part of the five permanent members of the United Nations that also include Russia, China and France and are actively involved in funding most UN bodies and projects to easily influence their decisions.

A farmer from Chinengundu Village under Chief Mashayamombe, Mr Edward Marimo, said the influence of the British and the Americans could not be ruled out especially now that the economy of Zimbabwe -- their biggest enemy - is recovering with tobacco playing a very significant role. "Remember they are the same people who tried to stop Zimbabwe from trading in its diamonds because they feared its economy would recover.

Now that they have failed in that route they are trying to ruin the next best thing ever to happen to the Zimbabwean economy," he said recently.

Another farmer from Churu Village (also under Mashayamombe), Mr Joel Samasuwo, concurred saying the ban was tantamount to taking away a means of socio-economic empowerment to the generality of Zimbabwe after having failed to sabotage the national economy through banning trade in diamonds.

"As you can see many people in our villages have made vast improvements to their lives. Many have bought cars, motorbikes, farming implements, cattle and other livestock units while they have also managed to send their children to good schools and build decent houses for themselves," he said. Mr Samasuwo said such feats were irking those opposed to the land reform so there were very high chances they could try to influence the WHO as they are among the major financiers of most UN bodies, the WHO included.

Another farmer who asked not to be named also added that the proposed tobacco ban would seriously affect rural communities that survive on agriculture and render less effective the land reform the Government implemented. Tobacco currently contributes about 15 percent to Zimbabwe's Gross Domestic Product and smallholder farmers from communal, resettlement and A1 farming areas have been actively involved.

Recently, the Association of Sadc Chambers of Commerce and Industry urged member states participating at the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control's fifth conference held in Korea to oppose the proposal for total banning of tobacco production. ASCCI said the proposals known as FCTC Article 17 and 18 sought to pre-emptively phase tobacco farmers out of production to alternative crops such as food crops.

These include recommendations for governments to ban minimum support prices for tobacco leaf auctions.They also recommend the restriction of production by regulating the season in which tobacco could be grown and to reduce the farming area allocated to tobacco.

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