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W. Nile leaders warn tobacco firms

By Vision Reporter

Added 28th September 2010 03:00 AM

Tobacco companies operating in West Nile have been warned to plant enough trees to support their activities or be kicked out. The warning comes as different districts in the region are planning to make by-laws to protect the natural forest cover, partly being destroyed by the tobacco industry, a maj

Tobacco companies operating in West Nile have been warned to plant enough trees to support their activities or be kicked out. The warning comes as different districts in the region are planning to make by-laws to protect the natural forest cover, partly being destroyed by the tobacco industry, a maj

By Ibrahim Kasita

Tobacco companies operating in West Nile have been warned to plant enough trees to support their activities or be kicked out. The warning comes as different districts in the region are planning to make by-laws to protect the natural forest cover, partly being destroyed by the tobacco industry, a major economic activity in the area.

“They (tobacco companies) are supposed to have raised enough wood lot before starting their businesses. We are now saying, you stop it until you have in place forests to support your tobacco activities,” said Peter Abeson Mokili, the Koboko district secretary for production and natural resources.

The official revealed that Koboko and other neighbouring districts would soon enact by-laws to prevent the ongoing massive destruction of forests, which is worsening food insecurity and climate change.

Three tobacco firms, namely Leaf Tobacco Company, Continental Tobacco and British America Tobacco operate in West Nile and the western region, the major tobacco growing areas in Uganda.

Farmers allied to some of the companies cut down trees to provide fuel to cure their produce without planting others. “Those free-riders have contributed to the destruction of trees as their farmers move to the natural forests to get the fuel wood,” Charles Odipio, the Arua district secretary for production and natural resource, said.

The development comes at a time when environmentalists say thousands of acres of forests are being cleared away for tobacco cultivation and curing. Trees are felled to provide fuel wood needed to cure or dry the tobacco leaves from its natural green to the brownish colour seen in cigarettes.

“There are many companies trading in tobacco, but we are only seeing BAT planting trees in its reserves and encouraging its contract farmers to plant trees as alternative sources of fuel,” Mokili said.

“The problem is that some firms do not plant enough trees to replace those that are cut for curing. We have no more trees here. “Tobacco farmers are replanting nothing. They have no conscience about the damage they are doing.

“They have no regard for the future.” Alternative wood for curing tobacco should come from exotic species particularly eucalyptus trees, which grow faster than the natural trees given that wood will continue to be the most affordable and accessible energy for farmers.

William Ochen, the BAT agro-forestry manager in Arua said that the firm has afforestation programme, which is part of the agronomy support to give to farmers contracted to supply leaf directly.

“Tree planting aims to reduce the impact of growers’ activities on wood consumption and to mitigate deforestation, change or loss of habitat or loss of natural forests,” he explained.

“Not all tobacco farmers need wood for their operations, but where they do, we encourage farmers to source it from woodlands grown for fuel supply purposes and to plant trees to supply their own needs.”

The trees are usually grown alongside tobacco farms as an environmentally sustainable crop.

W. Nile leaders warn tobacco firms

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