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WHO: Stop growing tobacco and switch to agriculture

The World Health Organisation (WHO) asked nations on Saturday to stop subsidizing tobacco crops and instead assist farmers in growing food because hunger is expanding worldwide and tobacco is to blame for eight million deaths annually.

Before Wednesday’s (May 31, 2023) World No Tobacco Day, WHO expressed its regret that 3.2 million hectares of 124 countries’ fertile land are being utilized to cultivate lethal tobacco, especially in areas where people are starving.

According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, governments around the globe “spend millions supporting tobacco farms.”

Instead of buying food, he advised nations to grow their own to “prioritize health, preserve ecosystems, and strengthen food security for all.”

According to the organization’s latest report, “Grow food, not tobacco,” 349 million people suffer from severe food insecurity, many of them in the 30 African nations where tobacco has increased by 15% in the past ten years.

Nine of the top ten tobacco growers are in low- and middle-income nations.

According to the WHO, tobacco production in these nations has occupied a significant portion of their fertile territory. As a result, the environment and the communities that rely on it suffer, as the crop’s expansion causes deforestation, water source contamination, and soil degradation.

The report also accuses the tobacco industry of overstating the financial advantages of tobacco as a cash crop and entangling farmers in a web of dependency.

To assist thousands of farmers in nations like Kenya and Zambia in switching from tobacco to sustainable food crops, WHO, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the World Food Programme (WFP) have joined forces.

The programme gives farmers access to microcredit loans to settle their obligations with tobacco firms and information, training, and markets for their produce.

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