Until recently, Damison Phiri from Traditional Authority Wimbe in Kasungu district had little knowledge of standard tobacco farming system that satisfies the market.
Like many tobacco farmers in the country, Phiri has been practicing traditional ways of cultivating the main cash crop in the country.
“Ours has been that practice we adopted from our parents. We don’t care how we do it provided that we get the product at the end of the season and perhaps a little cash after selling the tobacco,” said a 40 year old Phiri who has been a tobacco farmer for over 25 years old but has nothing tangible to show off.
Phiri, a father of five, said despite little proceeds from the market, tobacco has been their source of income.
“Mostly, buyers have been complaining about the quality of tobacco we send to the auction floors. But all in all, we couldn’t stop growing it because it means abandoning our own employment,” he said.
Thanks to Alliance One Tobacco Malawi, there seem to be some light for Phiri after attending the Open Day for Agriculture Labour Practices (ALP) initiative.
Noting the difficulties farmers were going through, Alliance One Tobacco Malawi established an Integrated Production System (IPS) farming which is widely known as ‘contract’ farming among the farmers has been established and it is paying dividents to many farmers.
All the farmers under this system follow good Agriculture Labour Practices which have seven principals such as child labour, fair treatment, forced labour, safe work environment, freedom of association, compliance with the law and income and work hours.
During the open day, Alliance One Tobacco Malawi officials interacted with both IPS and ordinary farmers.
Alliance One Sustainability Coordinator, Herthewick Khuzenje said most tobacco buying companies, including Alliance One, are advocating the adoption of the ALP programme because international buyers are only interested in buying tobacco produced under this new initiative.
He said the ALP programme encourages tobacco growers to follow seven principles that are recommended internationally. Among other things, the principles encourage farmers not to use children, pregnant women and breast feeding mothers as a source of labour in all stages of tobacco production.
Khuzenje added that Alliance One is advocating the adoption of, and adherence to, the ALP programme in all countries where it buys tobacco.
‘This ALP programme also bars pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers from taking part in any stage of tobacco production to avoid putting both the life of the woman and the kid in danger,” Khuzenje said.
Khuzenje said tobacco is facing numerous challenges such as the anti-tobacco smoking lobby championed by the World Health Organisations (WHO); hence, all international tobacco buyers, including Alliance One, are only interested in purchasing tobacco which is produced under the ALP programme.
Khuzenje said the ALP programme has been introduced as one way of following rules and regulations set aside by WHO in collaboration with global cigarette manufacturing companies such as Phillip Morris International of the United States and Imperial Tobacco Group of the United Kingdom.
A representative of farmers who are growing tobacco under contract farming system with Alliance One, Masiye Mwale, said most smallholder tobacco growers in the district were cultivating tobacco through the ALP programme because they are sure that they have ready markets.
Mwale said Alliance One has deployed leaf technicians in all parts of Kasungu, saying the technicians are giving farmers pieces of advice on how best they can cultivate their tobacco, a development that has prompted “many farmers” in the district to adopt the ALP system with ease.
“There are over 5,000 smallholder tobacco farmers here [in Kasungu] who are growing tobacco under the ALP programme because of assurances of ready markets,” Mwale said.
Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :