Kenya is the first African nation to roll out the tobacco free farms project which aims at improving health and livelihoods by shifting farmers from growing tobacco to other sustainable crops.
Tobacco farmers and their families are exposed to serious health risks through nicotine absorbed via the skin when handling wet tobacco leaves, exposure to heavy use of pesticides and tobacco dusts.
Tobacco is also associated with increased gender inequality, deforestation, soil degradation and contamination of water supplies.
The project, a joint initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the government of Kenya is being implemented in the nation’s Migori County.
The farmers have planted high-iron beans as an alternative crop, with UN agencies and the government providing training, quality inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, and a ready market for the harvest, through WFP’s local procurement initiatives.
This support enables farmers to stop risky tobacco farming and transition to producing sustainable crops that will help feed communities instead of harming their health, with confidence that a long-term market exists.
Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mutahi Kagwe said the government and his Ministry in particular are supportive of such projects that put the health of Kenyans first.
The CS noted that the government was working towards attaining Universal Health Coverage for all Kenyans and any projects that would reduce or alleviate medical expenses for Kenyans are most welcome.
“The project in Migori for the tobacco farmers is a major shift towards attaining a healthy nation and the Ministry of Health fully supports such ventures”