Migori County To Celebrate Anti-Tobacco Day

This year’s World No Tobacco Day will be celebrated at Sibuoche market in Migori County on Wednesday 31, May at an event expected to be graced by senior national and county government’s officials.

The World No Tobacco Day is aimed at highlighting all the dangers that smoking cigarettes or growing and handling green tobacco leafs portends to the health of human beings.

Health experts warn of a myriad of diseases that face the human body when people smoke cigarettes or grow tobacco as their economic mainstay. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable diseases, disability and death in Kenya and elsewhere, they stress.

‘Smoking can cause many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung ailments, and diabetes,’ said Dr. Dennis Obuon of Migori County referral hospital.

He says quitting smoking can help you in your physical fitness goals, adding that it can also help one be ready and determined for ‘your family, friends and country.’

However, despite all these expertise warnings, some of the Migori residents who for many years have been involved seriously in producing green tobacco as their sole industrial crop are against the campaigns to totally ‘kill’ the growth of the crop in Migori and elsewhere in the world.

‘Even if they will be making harsh words against tobacco and smoking on that day, let them know that their act will not make me quit growing this crop that has helped me grow in the hands of my parents, grandparents and great grandparents to my adulthood,’ remarked 56 year-old John Okello, a re-known tobacco farmer from Ayego village in central Kanyamkago location, Uriri Sub-county.

The father of five says that in all his life, he has depended on income from tobacco produce to fend for his family. ‘Until the anti-campaigns against tobacco growing started seriously in Migori around 2015 that saw the crop production reduce to about 30 percent within the region, farmers used to earn good income from the sale of the crop allowing them to live a better life with their families.

Mr. Alfonse Mwita, a farmer from Chenato areas in Kuria East points out that the business of producing the crop has plummeted to almost a quarter with the migration of multinational tobacco buying companies like Aliance One (Kenya) to other African counties due to bad trade.

Other companies such as British American tobacco (BAT), StanCom and Mastermind have reduced their business with the crop in the region, remaining with only a handful of farmers to assist grow and buy their produce.

In early 70s up to the late 90s, Migori was the biggest tobacco producer in Kenya, accounting to more than 70 percent of the yields produced in the country. The county then plunged into serious activities of fighting the production of the crop led by the county government leadership that hyped on introducing alternative crops like avocado, sugarcane, maize and sunflower among others praising their safety to human life.

While some farmers – more than 10,000 tobacco growers in the region – have already switched to embracing alternative cash crops which can fetch them quick money, although the dream is also not showing good signs, a good number of hardcore tobacco farmers like Mwita have vowed never to be pushed out of tobacco production.

‘Despite the ravaging poverty and diseases caused by tobacco in regions where the crop once dominated, stretching from Kuria West to Kuria East, Suna West, Uriri and Rongo, some hardcore farmers are still stuck to this crop giving us a big problem,’ said Migori County Executive ( CEC) member in charge of agriculture, Mr. Lucas Mosenda.

He regretted that it has become a herculean task to convince characters like Mwita adopt the practice of growing other crops even though they are much aware of the health dangers associated with the crop.

‘The resistance among some farmers to drop tobacco farming has been so severe but we are out to try to convince them to slowly see the sense and finally leave the crop altogether in the near future,’ assured Mosenda at recent interview.

He called on the local people to purpose to attend the Wednesday World No Tobacco Day in order to learn more on health issues related to the crop.

Source: Kenya News Agency