The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with other United Nations agencies to help farmers switch from growing tobacco to growing food in order to improve food security, especially in Africa. The pilot scheme in Kenya has been successful and the UN wants to expand it to other countries and continents. The WHO is worried that tobacco companies are increasingly taking hold in Africa, with nearly a 20% rise in tobacco plantations across the continent since 2005. The organization is concerned about the impact of tobacco farming on both the health of smokers and farmers, as well as food security.
The WHO accuses the tobacco industry of trapping farmers in a “cycle of dependency,” giving them little control over product prices and quality. Three UN agencies—the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Food Programme—have set up a credit program to help farmers pay off their tobacco industry debts and change their crop. The scheme was launched in southwest Kenya’s Migori county, where 2,040 farmers have been helped in the first year. The organization hopes to have around 5,000 farmers on board—4,000 in Kenya and 1,000 in Zambia.
The WHO warns that tobacco farming poses a problem for food security, with a growing number of people facing acute food insecurity. It is concerned that tobacco companies are gaining an increasing foothold in Africa, with a rise of nearly 20% in tobacco plantations across the continent since 2005. The organization aims to dispel the myth that tobacco farming is important for economic growth and highlights that it only accounts for more than one percent of gross domestic product in five countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and North Macedonia. By choosing to grow food instead of tobacco, the WHO says that we prioritize health, preserve ecosystems, and strengthen food security for all.