The world is facing a global food crisis caused by conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Tobacco, on the other hand, is grown in more than 124 countries, occupying millions of hectares of fertile land that can be used to grow food, meet food security and nutrition challenges, and feed families. Tobacco cultivation seriously affects the health of tobacco farmers due to the heavy use of pesticides and high absorption of nicotine through the skin.
In addition, tobacco farmers often find themselves trapped in a vicious debt cycle as a result of unfair contracts with the tobacco industry, and face difficulties exiting tobacco. Fortunately, there are some successful transitions where tobacco farmers have switched to growing iron-rich beans, cashews, corn and green leafy vegetables instead. Achieving this globally will require an ecosystem approach that not only allows farmers to earn incomes equal to or greater than those from tobacco, but also provides an economically sustainable alternative to tobacco cultivation. Identifying the means is important. Time to achieve better health and a better environment for ourselves and our lands and forests.