Tobacco Growing Condemning Tobacco Farmers to Poverty in Malakisi, Bumula Sub-County
This paper examines the relationship between tobacco production, food crop growing and food security in Malakisi sub-county of Bungoma County with a view of establishing the effect of tobacco growing on household food security. Bungoma County is one of the major tobacco growing zones in Kenya where tobacco was introduced as a cash crop by British American Tobacco (BAT) in the seventies. The main aim of the study was to assess the effect of tobacco production on food crop growing and household food security in the sub-county and how this has affected household nutrition. Malakisi is one of the nine sub counties that make up Bungoma County, which receives high rainfall and favourable conditions for cash and food crop growing. However, Malakisi sub-county has been food insecure raising questions as to whether tobacco growing is beneficial to the farmers. In this study, data was collected from 138 farmers who grew tobacco together with food crops and those who grew tobacco only in order to make a comparison on their household food security status. Data was collected using questionnaires, oral interview, direct observation and focus group discussion (FGDs). The results indicate that the region is food insecure with majority of the tobacco farmers living below the poverty line as a result of low returns from tobacco growing. The results also indicate that farmers grow tobacco because of the farm inputs that are given on credit basis by the tobacco companies which is later deducted from the farmers’ payment when the cured tobacco leaves are delivered to the contracting companies. The study found out that farmers devote too much of their time tending the tobacco crop at the expense of food crops, leaving almost no time to grow food crops. This has resulted in food shortages in the area.