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WHO is at the forefront of eradicating tobacco farming in Kenya



The World Health Organisation launched Wednesday a program that will see hundreds in Migori County in western Kenya abandon tobacco farming to reduce tobacco-related deaths and promote eco-friendly agriculture.

The program called the “Tobacco-Free Farms Project” will be implemented in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organisations (FAO), and the Kenyan government.

It will help hundreds of farmers in the region, which is home to most Kenyan tobacco, switch to more sustainable crops. This will be done by providing fertilizers, seeds, and ready markets upon harvest.

Other crops

Mutahi Kagwe (Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Healthcare) said that the project would help reduce the health risks of farmers and, consequently, the cost of healthcare. This will allow Kenya to accelerate the attainment of universal health coverage, one of the government’s Big Four Agendas.

Kagwe stated that the project was a significant step toward a healthy nation. The Ministry of Health supports such ventures fully.

“I am grateful to all of the partners in Tobacco-Free Farms for choosing Kenya, and specifically Migori County, to pilot this important global initiative aimed at reducing the adverse health, economic, and environmental effects of tobacco cultivation and utilization,” stated Zachary Obado (Migori Governor).

Recent research by the American Cancer Centre and the University of Nairobi revealed that farmers in Migori and Busia could make an average of Ksh80,000 ($697.47 per acre) from other crops, such as vegetables and grains. Still, they remained committed to tobacco farming due to the structure of the supply chain of tobacco.

Simon Cammelbeeck is the managing director of WFP’s Farm to Market Alliance program and assured farmers that WFP would provide ready markets to other crops grown in Migori.

Camelback stated that WFP and Farm to Market Alliance work to increase smallholder farmers’ incomes, improve livelihoods, and build sustainable food systems that promote food security.

Peter Munya (the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture) said that this would help to increase the country’s food security and keep farmers healthy.

The Kenya Tobacco Control Act of 2007 (Kenya) and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control), which Kenya ratified, require that the government provide alternatives to tobacco products to prevent any socio-economic consequences for people whose livelihoods are dependent on it.

“So far, we have not seen the government offer support to tobacco farmers who want to switch to other crops. This is a significant milestone,” Joel Gitari (chairperson of Kenya Tobacco Control and Health Promotion Alliance, or KeTCHPA), an umbrella body of civil societies fighting tobacco use, told The EastAfrican.

“Tobacco growers must be supported to switch to other crops that can improve their health, livelihoods, and reduce the supply of tobacco,” Dr. Juliet Nabyonga is acting WHO Country Representative.

Kenya raised the excise duty on tobacco products by 4.9 percent in October 2020. This saw manufactured tobacco tax increase from Ksh8,837 ($77.04/kg) to Ksh9273.55 ($80.85).

Averagely, excise duty (charged on commodities such as tobacco and alcohol) contributes about 12 percent to Kenya’s annual tax revenues.

“Every effort to reduce tobacco use is beneficial for the environment, economy, future, and country. This initiative should not be stopped at Migori. The government should expand it to Busia and Meru, Tharaka Nithi, and other areas that also grow tobacco,” Mr. Gitari stated to The EastAfrican.

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