Title: Impact of tobacco vs. alternative crop cultivation on the socio-economic status of farmers
Year of Publication: 2011
Authors: Prof. H.M.S. Priyanath, S.M. Ranasinghe Bandara, M.A.D. Nissanka Ariyasena
Subject: Impact of tobacco vs. alternative crop cultivation on the socio-economic status of farmers, the impact on the environment and the difficulties regarding the subject is studied through this book.
Summary: The enticements offered by the tobacco industry had been the major factor alluring farers for tobacco cultivation. Provisions of seeds, agro-chemicals, extension services and purchasing of the produce have been part of the package that has been offered to the farmers by the industry. As tobacco was more profitable than the other crops in the initial stages, more farmers took to it.
Mainly the highlands have been used for tobacco cultivation. While these lands have been the ones used for temporary crops cultivation, the crown-land too has been used in growing tobacco.
Two distinct phases in relation to income from tobacco cultivation can be identified. In the initial stages, as the inputs were inexpensive and high price was paid for the produce, the farmers were able to make good profit. However, as the soil fertility began to wear off with repeated cycles necessitating greater inputs, and as the price of labour increased simultaneously, the profits of the farmers plummeted. In addition, the farmers said that they had to expend a lot of physical and mental energy during the period of tobacco cultivation. When the income from tobacco started dropping and physical and mental exhaustion associated with tobacco farming became unbearable, the farmers gradually moved away from tobacco to alternative crops.
Here are some of the environmental concerns expressed by the farmers:
“because of tobacco (cultivation) fertile soil was washed off to the Randenigala reservoir”-a farmer from Walapane
“because of tobacco even a hare could not live” -a farmer from Walapane
“the reason for today’s water problem is tobacco cultivation.” -a farmer from Walapane
“the bees that were there for years left the area because of tobacco” -a farmer from Buttala
The health status of the farmer households fared much better during periods when they cultivated alternative crops as compared with periods of tobacco cultivation. It was also observed that tobacco cultivation has many direct adverse effects on the family members. The heavy labour burden resulted in less attention being paid by the farmers to family health and wellbeing. High usage of chemicals and stacking tobacco leaves within homes gave rise to offensive odour and dust, which in turn caused many health problems among the family members.
Shifting to alternative crops from tobacco has lead to “mental peace” among the farmers and their family members. This in turn has contributed to better social relationships within the family as well as with relatives and with social and religious organizations in the village.
Considering these facts, one can safely infer that alternative crops vis-a`-vis tobacco have, within the parameters studied, positively contributed to the social sand economical improvement of the farmers’ families.