The tobacco industry in Malawi: A globalised driver of local land change

Helmut J Geist, Marty Otañez, John Kapito

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Citations (Scopus)


The tobacco-dependent Republic of Malawi, formerly Nyasaland, is taken as an example of how the globalization of non-food cash crops such as tobacco impact upon land cover, in particular native, old-growth forests of the miombo biome. It is shown that markets and institutions, harnessed by a handful of US leaf and cigarette companies through a complex interlinking network of actors, account for a considerable share of local land change in the form of both land cover conversions and land quality modifications. Starting in late 19th century, tobacco monocultures became to dominate the whole country. Our insights run contrary to statements propagated by the tobacco industry and its agricultural front organizations. They also pose a major challenge for the implementation of the World Health Organization's first public health treaty to regulate use and production of tobacco.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLand change science in the tropics
Subtitle of host publicationChanging agricultural landscapes
EditorsAndrew Millington, Wendy Jepson
Place of PublicationNew York, NY, USA
PublisherSpringer Science+Business Media
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)0387788638 , 978-0387788630
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2008


  • Agriculture
  • Agronomy
  • Terrestrial ecology
  • Environmental biology
  • Land cover conversion
  • World Health Organization
  • Miombo biome
  • Non-food
  • Cash crop globalization
  • Green gold


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