Tobacco companies seeking to move into South Sudan would not be tolerated, the Agriculture Minister of Central Equatoria said, adding that the industry would spoil the soil’s fertility, threatening human health and the environment.
I will not encourage the growing of harmful crops, harmful to our health, and harmful to our environment,” said the minister. Tobacco growing would encourage deforestation, he said. You will later expose our country to desert,” he warned farmers.
I will not encourage the growing of harmful crops.”
Instead he encouraged locals to grow crops which add nutrients and maintain the soil’s fertility, such as groundnuts, maize, simsim, sunflower, sorghum and beans.
The World Health Organisation has warned that tobacco leaches nutrients from the soil and prevents sustainable agriculture.
Edmond Taban Gogo, Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture in Yei County, said among a series of new agricultural resolutions made in mid-March, they set a ratio of four feddans (measuring 60 by 70 meters) for food crops to every one feddan of tobacco, to dilute the risk to the soil.
He said this was designed to encourage farmers to diversify and not just to grow cash crops.
Most of Yei farmers have become market oriented.”
Most of Yei farmers have become market oriented. Let them not only think of tobacco, let them move to other crops that they can get money from as substitutes,” said Taban.
Taban encouraged farmers to grow mostly food crops as source of survival because money can not only be obtained from tobacco but also from other crops.
Meanwhile local farmers in Yei County expressed their support for a ban on tobacco farming. A local farmer who identified himself as Anthony Yuma told The Niles that he supported the state government’s initiative to ban tobacco growing. Growing tobacco is harmful to our health causing different diseases,” said Yuma.
Emmanuel Latiu, another farmer, said tobacco growing brings famine and therefore fellow farmers should understand the step taken by the government in order to keep their soils fertile.
These fertilisers spoil the fertile land of our country South Sudan.”
Despite the above compliance of some local farmers, some anonymous farmers are unhappy with the criteria saying it is an important cash crop.
The head of Yei Crop Training Centre (YCTC) David Balla said the leafy part of the tobacco plant requires high nitrogen fertilisers. These fertilisers spoil the fertile land of our country South Sudan,” said Balla.
Balla explained that adding extra fertilisers to the already fertile soil would kill important living organisms in the soil. He said land used for tobacco farming took many years until it had recovered and became useful for farming again.