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When tobacco farmers give back to the land that gives

The surprise is, as the live barn [chigafa cha moyo] of acacias [locally known as kesha] trees thrives, so does the pockets of Stanly Bokosi.

Bokosi, 60, seems to have courted instant success the moment he joined Alliance One farmers who have embraced Integrated Production System (IPS) in Kayisi Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Lukwa in Kasungu District.

One of the conditions he had to agree to was the need to nurture trees. In the past, his flue cured tobacco could serve the role of a curse and blessing in the sense that, while he earned substantial amount of money at the Auction Floors by felling down trees, he was literally wiping away forests in the vicinity— digging a grave for future generations.

No more. To begin with, the tobacco company he is aligned to provides firewood for curing tobacco and, most importantly, he has planted his own trees, which he intends to use as a live barn.

As the trees grow piercingly green each agricultural season, his pockets green over with cash, as his income has increased since 2008, thanks to IPS.

“I became a tobacco farmer in 1994 but I was not benefiting from it until I joined IPS with Alliance One in 2008. And, so far, I have managed to construct a four bedroom iron-roofed house, which I constructed in 2010.

“I have also bought two vehicles, a Toyota Corolla bought this year at K2.1 million and a one tonner Toyota Hilux pick up I bought some three years ago. This year, I have bought a plot worth K3 million in the town of Kasungu where I want to construct a commercial house,” Bokosi says.

Visit Bokosi’s residence, located some 25 kilometres west of Kasungu town, and you will realise that it is its own version of an earthily heaven. When not in season, fruits such as oranges, paw paws and guavas— which are in abundance—give the whole place a sense of fresh air.

“Over the years, I have seen great improvements in food sufficiency. Alliance One gives me fertiliser and hybrid maize seeds to grow so that I can have enough food all year round. This year alone, I have managed to harvest over 1,200 bags of maize as well as some 53 bags of pop-corn (each weighting 50 kilogramme),” he says.

This year, he has sold 70 bags of burley and 42 bags of flue cured tobacco, generating a profit of more than K5.8 million after all deductions. He has used some money to pay his 14 workers, apart from buying a Yamaha motor cycle for his 24-year-old son at K800.000.

That is not all. He has also bought a maize-shelling machine at K400.000 and a solar panel at K200.000 this year alone. Last year, he registered a profit of K2.6 million

His field is 11.7 hectares big but he uses about seven hectares for tobacco cultivation while the remaining hectares are used for cultivating other crops.

But Bokosi is not the only one basking in the sun of IPS.

Aida Madisi, born in 1958 in Manthalekani Village, T/A Chilowamatambe, Kasungu, is a typical example of a modern woman.

A mother of six children and 15 grand children, she is able to grow maize as she is also given fertilizer and hybrid maize seeds to grow.

This year alone she has managed to harvest 57 bags of maize, each weighting 50 kilogrammes.

“I started contract farming with Alliance One in 2010 and, so far, I have managed to construct a four bed-roomed house, roofed with iron sheets. I have 14 cattle and 10 goats. This year, I got a profit of K800.000 after loan deductions, having sold 15 bales of burley tobacco,” Madisi says.

However, Madisi warns that, although she is friendly to all people, she is not as friendly, when it comes to employing children.

She says under no circumstances will be employ children, who are better off schooling than moving up and down in the sun, in the hope of earning a living from tobacco proceeds before their time. She calls it child labour.

Alliance One Tobacco Corporate Affairs Manager, Fran Malila, observes that “hazardous child labour is work that is dangerous, unsafe or unhealthy to the child because of its conditions and the type of work. Such work could result in a child being exploited, killed, injured or become ill”.

Malila says, to avoid cases where children are employed on farms in the country, tobacco farmers are informed about acceptable agricultural labour practices.

“All Alliance One contracted growers are sensitised on such issues and are invited for training by leaf technicians. All farmers are contractually obligated to comply with all of the seven principles through contracts signed at the beginning of each season. Through the IPS system, Alliance One is better able to reach and educate its contracted growers on the importance of compliance,” Malila says.

She adds: “Our approach is to improve conditions for farmers and workers through direct interaction with contracted farmers by leaf technicians and area field administrators in growing areas, conducting training to encourage farmers to comply with labour codes, following up on reported incidences, [and taking] remedial actions whenever non-compliance is observed, [and conducting] sensitisation meetings with community leaders and members.”

It could be because she does not employ children that Madisi rests assured. Peace comes naturally as she does not break any law, hence she has all the time to dream.

And she is still dreaming.

She intends to buy a bailing Jack and drill a borehole at her house.

Madisi’s house is located about 38 kilometers east of Kasungu town, past the beautiful and famous Chiwengo Village. There, she plans against the beast called poverty.

As a member of a club, she continues to hope, even though others may think she has crossed the bridge of financial constraints and can as well rest.

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