Kenya might not grow tobacco after 2025 if a recommendation to spend Sh20 billion to phase out such production is implemented, according to a story in The Business Daily.
Under the recommendation, the money would be used to finance the setting up of alternative agricultural activities.
The recommendation has been put forward by anti-tobacco activists – mainly non-governmental organizations – that want the central government to allocate Sh10 billion from tobacco trade taxes to part-finance the project. At the same time, they want the counties growing the crop to raise the other Sh10 billion.
The recommendations were presented during a joint brainstorming forum convened by the Institute for Natural Resources and Technology Studies (INRS) in Kirinyaga County recently.
Emma Wanyonyi, a public education and capacity building and program officer at the International Institute for Legislative Affairs (ILA), said the issue had been pending since it was first recommended to the government in 2001.
There was nothing new in the recommendations, she said. The only changes were the size of the budget, which was Sh8 billion in 2001, and the implementing authorities, because previously there was no devolved system of governance. “We are now aware that the budget is bigger and we have to accommodate county governments that by law are custodians of agricultural policies on the ground,” she said.
Wanyonyi said the budget would cater for the estimated 20,000 small-scale farmers who relied on tobacco farming as their livelihood. Current annual production was estimated at 16,000 tons.
“It is incumbent upon county governments to lead from the front and implement the recommendations,” she said. “We have written to county governments to persuade them that they can better battle poverty levels through other agricultural ventures than growing tobacco.”
The INRS co-ordinator Samuel Achola said the country was “running a killer and poverty-breeding agribusiness venture in entertaining tobacco farming”.
He said economics of scale did not favor tobacco farming as a good economic occupation due to its “grave health, environmental and social ramifications”.
Like most other developing countries, Kenya treasured tobacco firms because of the revenues they generated through tax. “In fact, between the tobacco firms, the farmers and the government, it is the government that is the greatest beneficiary,” Achola said.