By Joseph Luhanga:
Representatives of the Tobacco Commission (TC) have disclosed that the tobacco industry regulator is contemplating introducing laws allowing only farmers plant trees to produce tobacco.
This came out during a tree planting exercise initiated by the Commission in Dzinje Village, Traditional Authority (T/A), Kalolo in Lilongwe.
This comes against a background that trees on more than 15,000 hectares of land are cut down every year by tobacco farmers for production hence the need to enforce rehabilitation of the same.
In an interview on the sidelines of the event TC Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Levi Phelani, said the initiative is part of the commission’s corporate social responsibility but will make it mandatory among tobacco farmers once such legislation is put in place.
“This is an effort to safeguard the environment and combat effects of climate change towards the tobacco industry because growing and preparing tobacco involves cutting down of trees. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the commission to take a front role on such exercise.
“Very soon a law will be put in place which will require any farmer registering to produce tobacco to have proof to have planted trees,” Phelani said.
He further disclosed that the commission will plant 16,000 trees this year in other districts such as Blantyre, Mzuzu, Kasungu and Balaka.
T/A Kalolo, who was the guest of honour at the event expressed gratitude for the initiative and pledged protection to the trees until they are fully grown.
“I will not tolerate any person found carelessly cutting down trees in my area and all perpetrators will be dealt with accordingly,” Kalolo said.
A representative from the District Agriculture Development Office, Josephine Makhaza, said the trees will help improve crop production in general in the community.
The communities have since formed a committee that will be trained by the commission on how to protect the trees and ensure that they grow.
Some 4,000 trees were planted during the event. Tobacco is Malawi’s top export crop and foreign exchange earner.