Tuesday March 18 2014

Honest debate on tobacco crucial

The tobacco control efforts by the planned legislation and the ongoing public sensitisation are great efforts, but they will not yield much. One intriguing phenomenon about 21st Century Uganda is the obsession with legislation, yet we know that these laws remain unimplemented. We must, therefore, start with first things first: What pushes farmers and other players into the tobacco business?

The industry is one of the few planned and structured agricultural value-chains in Uganda. Farmers are assured of inputs, technical support and the market. The solution to the tobacco menace lies with our technocrats, planners and thinkers. Can our agronomists tell us what alternative crop grows in soils that grow tobacco? Can our economic planners tell us what it would take to have a similar planned, structured value chain the way multinationals run the tobacco industry? What would it take to establish a similar value chain for another crop? This is the kind of debate that we need to have.

The efforts at ‘campaigning’ and legislation will only end in business as usual, with seminars, pamphlets, talk-shows, and counter-arguments from the industry barons. The tobacco debate, therefore, needs refocusing.

Matsiko Kahunga,