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Sustainable Tobacco Harvesting in Africa
Sustainable farming is a cornerstone of economic growth in Africa. When farming is sustainable, the yield of cropland is higher and the environmental impact is lower, leading to better performance.
GTS maintains a low environmental impact through sustainable harvesting practices. This large tobacco firm employs thousands of people. Encouraging companies to farm sustainably can make a huge impact on the environment.
Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, a leading philanthropist and African business executive, explains how sustainable tobacco production at GTS is helping the environment and helping workers across Africa.
The Principles of Sustainable Farming
Sustainable farming is far more than a buzzword. While terms like “organic” and “sustainable” are sometimes floated in a promotional manner, the true work of sustainable farming goes much deeper.
The first principle of sustainable farming is smart land use. Production and consumption of agricultural products like tobacco means that large parcels of cleared land must be used. Land must be cleared with environmental principles in mind, and farmers should plant trees on any unused land that they have cleared. Trees capture carbon from the atmosphere and produce oxygen, enhancing the health of the planet.
The second principle of sustainable farming is biodiversity. Farmers need to learn to rotate crops to prevent the soil from becoming depleted. Tobacco farmers need to rotate their crops with rice, grass, maize, or groundnuts. Small-scale farmers are less likely to practice good crop rotation, so their land is more prone to nutrient depletion.
The third principle of sustainable farming is ecological pest management. The excessive use of chemical pesticides has a severe impact on the quality of tobacco that is grown, as well as contributing to health problems for the people who consume it. Chemical pesticides have the unwanted effect of killing beneficial insects in the fields like pollinators. Without pollinators, agriculture would not be possible.
Tobacco Growing Practices
Tobacco is grown annually. It is best suited for warm climates with rich soil and good drainage. Around the world, 4 million hectares of land are used for tobacco growth. This represents only about one percent of the globe’s agricultural land.
Over the past 50 years, tobacco production has largely moved from the Americas to Asia and Africa. Tobacco land has doubled in Malawi, Tanzania, and China.
Tobacco is sown in hotbeds or cold frames and then transplanted to the field. It is vulnerable to damage from various insects like flea beetles, tobacco cutworms, and cabbage loopers. Sometimes tobacco is grown under a layer of cheesecloth to keep off the insects.
Tobacco is harvested mechanically in most large farming concerns. This means that tobacco farming can have a higher environmental impact than other farmed crops. Farmers need to be careful to make sure that their machinery is running as cleanly and efficiently as possible to prevent unnecessary pollution from entering the environment.
Techniques for Sustainable Tobacco Farming
GTS has been at the forefront of sustainable tobacco farming. This company has reduced its use of water and energy and has also reduced the amount of waste produced in the agricultural process. Safety in the field is their primary concern. When tobacco farmers look toward sustainable practices, they can follow the example of companies like GTS.
Expansion in Tobacco Farming
Africa has experienced a resurgence in the number of hectares of land under cultivation with tobacco. The most important countries for African tobacco production are Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique. In 2012, the latest year available, Africa produced 8.7 percent of the world’s total tobacco crop.
Environmental Problems Caused by Tobacco Cultivation
Like most large-scale industrial farming, tobacco cultivation can have an impact on the health of the environment. Water runoff, pollution from mechanical harvesters, and industrial waste can all be problematic. Responsible tobacco growers are beginning to make a difference in this area.
Another problem that tobacco-producing areas have encountered is green tobacco sickness. This syndrome occurs when tobacco harvesters absorb nicotine through the skin. This is a serious health problem, and responsible tobacco farmers are doing what they can to stop it.
The Key to Sustainable Farming
Sustainable farming preserves the environment for future generations. Large farming concerns like GTS are showing the way forward for tobacco growers around the world. When farmers perform sustainable activities, they will be able to receive a better yield from the land as well as greater profits for their farms.
Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa emphasizes the importance of sustainability in all types of farming throughout the world, as well as the African tobacco industry. While tobacco has been a historically high-impact crop, new developments in sustainable farming are helping to minimize the damage to the environment. Taking the time to reexamine their farming practices can lead to a better outcome for the environment as well as higher yields and a better-quality product.
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