By Regina Manyara
Tobacco farming in the country seems to be losing its former glory by the passing day owing to the low returns on the commodity, erratic weather conditions as well as an increase in Tobacco related illnesses that have seen many farmers change their minds about growing the crop.
Some Tobacco farmers are now adopting among others maize and sugarcane farming to support their livelihoods.
The growth in population, rising disposable incomes and a vibrant young population with active night lives has led to a rise in the consumption of Tobacco products in Kenya.
In the recent years there has been heightened anti-Tobacco campaigns due to increase in Tobacco related illnesses.
Mzee Christopher Ombeo Lwala, a pioneer Tobacco farmer from Migori county has quit tobacco farming for maize and sugarcane farming.
Research indicates that 9 out of 10 lung cancer cases are caused by Tobacco smoking which not only makes pneumonia and asthma worse but also causes other types of cancer like the mouth, larynx, liver, bladder and cervical cancer among others.
Tobacco farming in Kenya has been practiced since the introduction of the crop by BAT in 1925.
It’s labour, capital intensive; and requires about 1,200 labour hours per acre, compared to maize which only takes about 107 hours per acre.
For Mzee Ombeo burying his daughter while watching his wife suffer from lung cancer was the last straw.
He says that cancer was little known to him and his family and wishes the tobacco-growing community could be educated on the adverse effects of Tobacco consumption.
He hopes his new venture into maize and sugarcane farming will adequately provide for him and his family.