The mission of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s Agricultural Transformation Initiative (ATI) is to prepare smallholder tobacco farmers for an era of significantly reduced demand for tobacco, focusing first on populations with the greatest need, according to a piece posted on the Foundation’s website.
The initial focus will be on Malawi.
The piece starts by admitting that growing tobacco has never lifted smallholder farmers out of poverty.
But it then goes on to say that high-quality data and rigorous analysis can shape and inform effective, evidence-based policy creation and resource deployment to diversify economies and lessen country dependence on tobacco – better preparing farmers for the future while strengthening their countries’ economies.
‘The mission of the Foundation’s … ATI … is to prepare smallholder tobacco farmers for an era of significantly reduced demand for tobacco, focusing first on populations with the greatest need,’ the Foundation says. ‘The ATI will use this opportunity to facilitate the establishment of more secure income strategies for farmers and will seek to partner with a diverse set of stakeholders to ensure the success and sustainability of our strategy. ATI activities will target the following outcomes:
- ‘Higher and more secure income streams, improved food security status, and better overall health for smallholder farmers, their families, and their communities more broadly
- ‘Increased knowledge and application of cutting-edge agricultural science and technology
- ‘Reduced economic dependence on tobacco and increased resilience for tobacco-growing nations
- ‘Reduced environmental degradation due to tobacco cultivation
- ‘Improved nutritional quality and food security status
‘To achieve this, the ATI will employ a systems approach to understanding local contexts and potential points of intervention, coupled with an investment-oriented model of action. A systems-thinking approach is well suited for tackling complex development problems because it incorporates multifactor analysis and feedback loops to foster better decision-making. Focusing on investment, meanwhile, will ensure that each dollar spent is contributing to building capacity and strengthening local and national economies in a sustainable way – contributing, that is, to a better future for smallholder farmers, their families, and their communities…’
Meanwhile, the piece singles out Malawi as being the country with a uniquely great need where the ATI will focus initially.
According to the Foundation, a 2016 study found that only 25 percent of Malawian tobacco farmers were content with the prices they received in 2014, and about 41 percent of all tobacco farmers have considered switching to alternative crops or livelihoods. About 45percent of all tobacco farmers in Malawi are contract farmers, but no statistically significant differences between independent and contract farmers were found in price satisfaction and desire to switch.
Farm-gate prices of tobacco in Malawi fell by 54 percent between 2012 and 2016.