The world is confronted with a global food crisis fueled by conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, tobacco is grown in over 124 countries, taking up millions of hectares of fertile land that could be used to grow food, address food security and nutrition challenges and help feed families. Tobacco growing also has serious health impacts on tobacco farmers due to heavy use of pesticides and high absorption of nicotine through the skin.
Furthermore, tobacco farmers often find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of debt as a result of unfair contractual agreements with the tobacco industry and face difficulties in shifting away from tobacco. Fortunately, there are several examples of successful transitions where tobacco farmers have switched to growing high-iron beans, cashew, corn and green vegetables instead. In order to achieve this globally, it is important to adopt an ecosystem approach and identify economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing that will not only enable farmers to earn as much as, if not more than, what they earn from tobacco, and at the same time achieve better health and a better environment for themselves and their land and forests.