Growers the big winners in Malawi's tobacco industry

Dec 18, 2013

Tobacco growers are the big winners, while the environment and people who have lost land to tobacco estates are the major losers in Malawi's expanding tobacco industry. This is according to Alois Mandondo of the Centre for Agrarian and Environmental Studies in Zimbabwe. Mandondo, as leader of a study published in Springer's journal Human Ecology, believes that concerted and coordinated efforts are needed to solve the related dilemmas faced by this African country.

Malawi has been the leader in tobacco production in southern Africa dating back to the 1890s, and the industry is still the cornerstone of the country's economy. To assess the social, economic and environmental impacts and trade-offs of investing in Malawi's , Mandondo and his team focused on two prime tobacco growing districts in the Miombo woodlands. They found that the net benefits of the industry are reduced by high government subsidies, and the limited in-country value ultimately translates into loss of jobs and revenue.

The socio-economic impacts of the expansion of tobacco growing in Malawi are highly variable, depending on the stakeholder group or business model in question. Tobacco growers benefit most from the industry's expansion, with those losing land to large-scale tobacco estates on the losing end of the equation. Efforts to recuperate livelihoods are generally less than adequate to offset the costs of land loss. Growers sponsored by large estates show significantly higher returns than independent growers or smallholder farms, which are typically run by single families.

The high rate of tobacco-induced deforestation is also a major environmental concern. Deforestation is caused by continued plantation expansion and the subsequent, unsustainable wood-sourcing practices in an effort to provide low-cost fuel to dry and cure tobacco. While estates are mandated by law to maintain tree plantations on at least 10 percent of their own land, this law is rarely enforced, justified by the national strategic importance of the tobacco industry. The subsequent depletion of natural forests by smallholder wood suppliers and others, combined with the increased global demand for tobacco, have caused farming to spill over into neighboring Zambia and Mozambique. This in turn ratchets up the potential for rapid deforestation there, as well.

"The major lesson appears to be that there is no single solution to any of the problems: each, if not all, will require sets of solutions pursued in tandem in a coordinated manner," Mandondo writes. "While highlighting areas of improved governance that are needed to enhance the transition to a more sustainable and socially just industry, we also acknowledge the technical and political challenges involved in such a transition."

Explore further: Hundreds of millions of Chinese men could die from tobacco related diseases

More information: Mandondo, A. et al (2013). Assessing Societal Benefits and Trade-offs of Tobacco in the Miombo Woodlands of Malawi, Human Ecology. DOI: 10.1007/s10745-013-9620-x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nearly six million die from smoking every year: WHO

Jul 10, 2013

Despite public health campaigns, smoking remains the leading avoidable cause of death worldwide, killing almost six million people a year, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

US northeast braces for flooding after record snow

4 hours ago

Weather forecasters and emergency officials warned Sunday that melting snow would lead to heavy flooding in parts of the US northeast, with hundreds of thousands of people told to brace for fast-rising waters.

3Qs: Game theory and global climate talks

Nov 21, 2014

Last week, China and the United States announced an ambitious climate agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions in both countries, a pledge that marks the first time that China has agreed to stop its growing emissions. ...

From hurricanes to drought, LatAm's volatile climate

Nov 21, 2014

Sixteen years ago, Teodoro Acuna Zavala lost nearly everything when Hurricane Mitch ravaged his fields, pouring 10 days of torrential rains on Central America and killing more than 9,000 people.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kylejhollingsworth
not rated yet Jan 30, 2014
It's very sad that tobacco growing and smoking is so unfavorable for our environment. But despite all the dire consequences that smoking can cause to humans - we continue to smoke. And apparently, people cannot be stopped even with high cigarette taxes. Because there are some online stores, such as http://247cigstore.com/ , which sell cigarettes at very low prices, allowing people to save.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.