Prioritise feeding of Ghanaians over tobacco production – CSOs

3Accra. May 31, GNA – The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) and the Institute of Leadership and Development (INSLA) have called on the government to prioritise feeding of the citizenry over the production of tobacco. This was in statement jointly issued by the civil society organisations and copied to the Ghana News Agency as they join the globe to commemorate the 2023 World No Tobacco Day, which falls today, May 31, on the theme: ‘We need Food not Tobacco.’ Mr Issah Ali, the Executive Director of VALD said according to Tobacco Tactics of the University of Bath in 2014 stated that 2,545 metric tons of tobacco were produced in Ghana, covering 0.04 per cent of agricultural land. He said the 2023 global campaign was aimed at raising awareness about alternative crop production and marketing opportunities for tobacco farmers and to encourage them to grow sustainable, nutritious crops. He stated that the campaign was to call on governments and policymakers to step up legislation, develop suitable policies and strategies, that would provide favourable market conditions for tobacco farmers to shift to growing food crops that would provide them and their families with better life. ‘It also seeks to expose the tobacco industry’s efforts to interfere with attempts to substitute tobacco growing with sustainable crops, thereby contributing to the global food crisis. Tobacco use continues to be the leading global cause of preventable deaths. ‘Its influence extends into all corners of the globe, threatening lives and livelihoods and endangering the health and prosperity of developed and developing nations alike,’ Mr Ali stated. He added that tobacco consumption has contributed to climate change which has affected the environment, through deforestation and population, thereby hindering the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Executive Director stated that Article 17 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control dictates that parties shall, in cooperation with others and with competent international and regional intergovernmental organisations, promote, as appropriate, economically viable alternatives for tobacco workers, growers and individual sellers. ‘It is therefore recommended that nations venture into economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing (alternative livelihoods). Tobacco, which is perceived as being economically viable, has led to farmers shifting from the growing of agro-products to the growing of tobacco which will lead to a reduction in the number of cash-crops produced,’ he stated. Mr Benjamin Anabila, the Director of INSLA stated that worldwide, there are over 1.3 billion people who use tobacco; the majority of whom live in resource-constrained countries. ‘Each year, tobacco claims the lives of more than eight million people, including 1.2 million lives lost from exposure to second-hand smoke. Unless urgent action is taken to reverse this global epidemic, tobacco will kill as many as one billion people this century, making it one of the greatest sources of preventable deaths and diseases. He said COVID-19 pandemic has also brought the dangers of tobacco further to the fore, leading millions of people worldwide to want to quit. Mr Anabila stated that the growing food crisis is driven by conflicts and wars, climatic shocks, and the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that structural causes like the choice of crop also have an impact, and a look into tobacco growing reveals how it contributes to increase food insecurity. ‘Across the globe around 3.5 million hectares of land are converted for tobacco growing each year. Growing tobacco also contributes to deforestation of 200,000 hectares a year. Land used for growing tobacco then develops a lower capacity for growing other crops, such as food, since tobacco depletes soil fertility,’ he said.

Source: Ghana News Agency