Tobacco growers at the crossroads: Towards a comparison of diversification and ecosystem impacts

Helmut J. Geist* (Corresponding Author), Kang-tsung Chang, Virginia Etges, Jumanne M. Abdallah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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An international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has been in force since 2005, also aimed at regulating tobacco farming: FCTC article 17 on diversification, and FCTC article 18 on socio-ecological issues. Relating to the FCTC, information was gained and evaluated from tobacco farmers of growing areas sampled from major world regions (Rio Grande do Sul/Brazil, Tabora/Tanzania, Meinung/Taiwan, and any/Europe). A local farming survey was carried out in 2007, using a common data protocol, which covered, among others, questions on area and production development, energy used in curing, workforce, economic livelihood situation, and diversification opportunities. In addition to the survey, secondary (national-scale) statistics, public testimonies and other published data were explored. We analyzed these data using a portfolio approach, which combined statistical analyis, meta-anaytical study and descriptive narratives. The projected trend of a global shift of tobacco cultivation into the developing world is confirmed, but also refined. Wood is used in Brazil and Tanzania for curing Virginia green leaf, thus contradicting the projected continuous reduction of this energy source. Child labour remains a major component of family farm tobacco operations in Brazil and Tanzania, while the cost and availability of seasonal labour turns into a bottleneck of production in Germany. More diversification opportunities exist than generally claimed, but no efforts are seen to address poor and vulnerable growers, in particular. German and Taiwanese tobacco growers can reasonably be predicted to discontinue farming in the near future, while tobacco cultivation in Brazil and Tanzania is seen to expand, mainly due to the political economy of low-cost production. Conclusions are drawn with respect to the work of the UN Study Group on Economically Sustainable Alternatives to Tobacco Growing (ESATG), effective since 2007.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1066-1079
Number of pages14
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jan 2009
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


  • land use transition
  • tobacco transition
  • agricultural alternatives
  • crop substitution
  • rural livelihood
  • framework convention on tobacco control
  • wood use
  • deforestation


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