From the beginning, when commercial tobacco production started in Chesapeake bay area of Virginia during the early 17th century, it was an enterprise of settlers making use of contract and slave labour to colonize natural environments. In 1800, 70% of world tobacco production was concentrated in North America. Starting with the American Revolution and the breakdown of colonial rule, tobacco spread all over the world (Goodman 1995). First time in the history, around 30 years ago, tobacco production shifted into developing nations of the tropics and subtropics, both having much more fragile ecosystems than the temperate regions, especially when it comes to fuelwood supply from natural forests. In 1977, exactly 30 years ago, an internal paper was produced by the director's office of the United Nations Environmental Programme, claiming that fuelwood scarcity, land degradation and deforestation in developing nations could be related to tobacco production. It was clarified by Goodland et al. in 1983, that especially the wood use of tobacco for curing contributes to serious and growing deforestation in tropical dryland areas having seasonal rainfall and poor soils. Three years later, a consultant study of the tobacco industry was published (Fraser 1986) which is considered to be the ,definite study on the wood use of tobacco" (ITGA 1995) by the International Tobacco Growers' Association. It is admitted there, too, that especially the production of flue-cured tobacco, used for manufacturing American blend cigarettes, can cause grave ecological problems in such areas where there is a prospective or actual fuelwood supply deficit. A world map has been produced by Fraser (1986), showing the flue-cured tobacco producing areas (in black) in relation to fuelwood supply deficit areas (in red). From the map, at least four observations are evident: (1) no more flue tobacco is produced in the industrialized countries of the North, but almost all flue tobacco is produced in developing nations of the South; (2) almost no flue is produced in tropical rain forest areas around the equator; (3) flue is mostly produced in fuelwood deficit areas of the tropics; (4) there is a unique concentration of flue and fuelwood deficit in Africa south of the Equator. It is from this part of Africa that evidence will be presented how tobacco farming contributes to tropical deforestation.
While most of the miombo-like woodlands in South America and Asia have already been eliminated and transformed into agrarian land, african miombo still covers huge areas, even in densly populated regions (Knapp 1973). Situated within the savanna ecosystem, miombo is close to the rain forest and therefore called ,fringe rain forest" (Baker 1993). Among 330 different tree species, there is a floristic homogenity made up by Brachystegia, Julbernardia and Isoberlinia varieties. Miombo covers 3.4 Mill. km2 and is the largest and mostly contiguous dry forest area in the world. Within the last 1,000 years, the woodlands have been contracted by 350 kilometres to their present position. From all types of vegetation in Africa, miombo has the highest growing stock and a sustainable yield of 138 Mill. tonnes, which is a considerable potential of wood resources for all types of uses (Campbell 1996, Millington et al. 1994). It is for this reason, that miombo woodlands could be regarded a unique global source for the production of wood consuming tobacco. Own research has been done in 2 study areas (marked by red crosses) which are part of eastern miombo (marked by a green line).
Most of the miombo woodland ecozone falls under countries of the SADC Region, that is the Southern African Development Community. 75% of all tobacco produced in continental Africa comes from 3 countries, i.e. Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Malawi, still having a high amount of woodlands, whereas tobacco production in Angola, Zambia and Mocambique is staggering due to economic crisis and civil war up to the recent past.
Tobacco produced in Africa increased from 250,000 tonnes to 500,000 tonnes during the past 20 years following the trend of global shift. Last year, in 1996, african production exceeded european production first time in the history of commercial tobacco. 90 % of tobacco produced in Africa comes from countries covered by miombo woodlands, mostly being SADC countries. Concerning the types of tobacco grown in the 3 major producing countries, more of fire-cured is grown in Africa than elsewhere. However, it is the most striking feature of miombo, that nearly all the tobacco produced is for American blend cigarettes: flue, burley and oriental tobacco. The blend of an american type cigarette is 55% flue, 25% burley and 20% oriental. Flue and fire-cured are not naturally cured by air or sun, but by artificial energy instead (Reisch 1989, Pater 1994). Where no alternative sources are available, mostly wood from indigenous forestes is used for curing (in Zimbabwe also coal). Picked as a green leaf, every type of tobacco must be cured to obtain the characteristic taste, aroma and colour, and to preserve it for storage, transport and processing. There are regional specialisations with Zimbabwe producing more flue and Malawi producing more Burley.
Flue-curing means that heated air, coming from a furnace usually outside the barn, is passed through the harvested leaves by means of metal pipes inside the barn. High rates of wood use can be considerably reduced if investment is done in furnace technology, barn construction and efficient loading. The malawian extension service urges flue farmers by means of a poster in Chichewa to plant at least 500 trees for a sustainable production of 1000 kilogram flue. Flue-curing produces sugar in the leaves and gives a mild, alcaline flavour to light cigarettes. To obtain nicotine from a flue cigarette one has to inhale by lungs which contributes to the pharmalogical addiction of flue. Different from flue, fire-curing of smoked varieties is done in traditional barns where wood smoke is introduced during the process to produce a dark, smoky-flavoured product, especially for pipe tobacco. The general problem with the wood use for curing is that data are extremely scarce for developing nations what can explain much of the confusion attached to the tobacco/environment debate. Recent figures will be presented based upon own research, but also drawn from recent studies in Tanzania (by Siddiqui & Rajabu 1996) and in Malawi (by Gossage 1997).
Own research covered 565 tobacco growers in Malawi and Tanzania. Based upon systematic random sampling, 193 smallholders were interviewed in Southern Tanzania and 122 in Southern Malawi. Another 113 large commercial tobacco farms, called estates, were interviewed in Malawi, also 137 tenants of burley estates. The research results will be published soon, but preliminary results are already available as 2 regional reports with the organizer of the meeting (Geist 1997a/b).
A questionnaire was presented to the tobacco growers by trained interviewers speaking the local languages. It had 4 major parts covering 66 variables with almost 2000 categories, while husbandry practices and the use of trees and wood formed a major part.
The debate about deforestation caused by tobacco is first of all a debate about the wood use of tobacco. The table presents wood use rates of tobacco grown in Africa by type of tobacco, by type of use, by country and by source of information. Wood use is specified in 3 different measures: (1) SFC, that is Specific Fuel Consumption, expressed in kilograms of wood used per 1 kilogram of cured tobacco; (2) in cubic metres per tonne of tobacco produced; and (3) cubic metres per farm.
When it comes to the firewood use of flue, the range of SFC is as low as 5 kg and as high as 130 kg. The lowest values are presented by a consultant study of the tobacco lobby stating that in 1995 the wood use of major tobacco countries will be 4.8 kg. It is an estimation value drawn from empirical values of the mid-80s from Kenya, Zimbabwe and Malawi which had been considerably higher in those times (8-13 kg). It is assumed that technology improvement would have resulted in lower rates (Fraser 1986). The figure of 5.5 given recently by the International Tobacco Growers' Association (ITGA 1997) is based upon 14 countries worldwide, possibly including african countries, but this is not specified. ITGA asked planters' associations and agro-business enterprises by mail to specify the wood use of flue. In my own research modern agro-business enterprises have an even lower wood use (around 4) than the one given by the tobacco lobby. However, when it comes to the average of all flue farmers, the average SFC in Malawi is 8. Moreover, Siddiqui & Rajabu (1996) specifiy 14, and Breag & Harker (1980) 15 to 20, all recent values being up to 5 times higher than the ones specified by the tobacco lobby. Even much higher rates possible but they should be interpreted as maximum values of selective oral information. Some of them are fairly reliable like the World Bank and FAO figures of fuelwood use in Tanzania during the 1960s and 1970s. They reflect the massive wood uses in tobacco growing areas like Urambo and Tabora in Central Tanzania which have already been deforested to a degree that wood has to be transported by tractors to the farms where curing is done since the distance to forested areas is more than 1o kilometres from the farms now (Kanshahu 1980).
When it comes to the firewood use of smoked or fire-cured tobacco, no recent figures are given by the tobacco lobby. All my research results from Tanzania and Malawi are 3 to 7 times higher than the outdated figures of the tobacco lobby.
I want to make clear that it is rather misleading to specify wood use in SFC because the real dimensions of wood use and deforestation are not revealed - simply by using this type of methdology! First of all, mostly no weight measurements of wood are taken (besides the study of Siddiqui & Rajabu which has been a laboratory design of a rural barn). Tobacco farmers usually specify their wood use in number of poles or cubic metres, and to convert stacked wood (expressed in cubic metres) into solid wood (expressed in kilogram), a conversion factor must be used for every type of tree species. Such conversion figures are hardly available (cf Lowore et al. 1994) and if not available, the specification in kg is speculative. This happened to me in Tanzania where no conversion factor was available, so that I had to specify a SFC range of 9 to 23, using 250 kg of wood per m3 as lower value and 600 kg per m3 as upper value (like Fraser did in his study). Moreover, SFC is a relative measure hiding real dimensions in absolute terms. For example, a fire-cured smallholder in Tanzania consumes 8 m3 of firewood per year, and due to a small hectarage the SFC is as high as 16 kg. A flue farm in Malawi has only half of that SFC (8 kg) but consumes more than 600 cubic metres of firewood per year due to large hectarage and high production output.
There is a common school of thinking that sun- or air-cured tobacco varieties like burley do not consume wood for curing. However, it is shown by Bernard (1990), Gossage (1997) and myself that the polewood used for constructing curing barns, gradings sheds and holding barns is as high as 2 to 5 m3 per tonne of burley produced resulting in an SFC of around 2 kg. Again, SFC hides the real dimensions as can be seen from a burley smallholder using 2 m3 per year and a burley estate of the same area using 78 m3, both having the same SFC.
The map below has been produced from aerial photographs showing the spatial dimensions of barns on a burley estate in southern Malawi (as marked in red). On the average there are 35 barns per estate, each 100 metres long and 3-4 metres broad, one for each tenant. Every 2-3 years they have to be replaced, mostly when a change of tenants takes place. 15,700 poles or the equivalent of 33,500 kg of solid wood are required annually to maintain the barns. This amounts to 78 m3 of stacked wood. The Extension Service of Malawi is very much aware of the wood use of burley recommending that every farmer plants 250 trees for the sustainable production of 1000 kg burley, what is half of what has been recommended for flue. It should be noted that 1m3 of wood is assumed to provide enough energy for cooking and heating as far as the private needs of one person per year are concerned (Chenje & Johnson 1994).
If firewood for curing and polewood for constructing barns are added up, the overall wood use per farm increases by 7 to 34%. This is also due to mixed farming systems, because in reality, smallholders could grow burley and fire-cured, and estates could grow burley and flue. And they do it to a large extent. Therfore, wood use should be calculated on the basis of individual farms and not by type of tobacco using stacked wood measures (in m3) instead of SFC.
Tobacco induced deforestation of miombo woodlands
The upper table provides data for the extent of miombo and tobacco with regard to the annual forest cover change during 1990 to 1995 on the basis of Worldbank and FAO data. It could be seen that nearly 90% of the african tobacco is produced within miombo woodlands that still provide huge areas of easily accessible wood. The annual loss of forest cover in tobacco producing countries is altogether 1.9 Mill. ha amounting to 51% of all forest cover change in Africa (3.7 Mill. ha). This means that deforestation occured in african tobacco countries is half of all deforestation occurred in Africa. If only the deforestation rate of the 3 major producing countries is taken, i.e. Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania (- 1.1%), it is almost 60% higher than the african average (-0.7%). The annual deforestation rate of miombo covered countries having no tobacco (-0.3%) is four times lower than the rate of the leading tobacco producers. During the period specified, the area under tobacco has expanded by 29% in the major producing countries. - It is difficult, but appropriate to isolate tobacco as a singular factor since land clearing is not only done for tobacco, but tobacco as a pioneer crop is often at the miombo frontier since virgin land is essential for seedbeds and tobacco plots because fresh land is free from nematodes (and tobacco cultures have also to be shifted every 2 to 4 years in order to avoid nematode infestation).
According to data for all of Southern Africa, the dimensions of tobacco induced deforestation can be specified as follows. 140,000 ha of woodlands are annually cleared only for the fuelwood use of curing tobacco in the whole of the region (Chenje & Johnson 1994). Taken the total of annual deforestation for all countries concerned, it means that 12% of the deforestation occurred in Southern Africa is due to tobacco. Since only firewood, but no polewood uses are considered, the figure will even be higher than that. It will increase again, if all mixed tobacco farming systems are included. On country level, 10,000 ha have been cleared in Malawi only by large commercial farms, and 13,000 have been cleared in Tanzania only for curing flue. The range of tobacco induced deforestation is between 4% (in Tanzania) and 18% (in Malawi). Again, since no smallholder tobacco is considered in Malawi and since no fire-cured tobacco is considered in Tanzania, the figures will be higher. They will increase again, if mixed tobacco farming systems are taken into account. Evidence from regional case studies will be presented to show the dynamics of deforestation.
Two research areas were selected lying next to each other, but in different countries. Songea District in the North is where almost all fire-cured tobacco of Tanzania comes from. The Namwera Highlands in the South are a major flue-producing area where one fifth of the national flue production of Malawi comes from. Between the two research areas, on Mozambiquan territory, is a closed woodland area larger than the Netherlands.
The sketch map of Songea area shows how tobacco expands from the main roads and settlements into the woodlands (green lined area) during the late 1970s (a more recent map of the tobacco expansion up to the mid-90s is under preparation). Tobacco is grown since about 70 years. With the liberalization of the tobacco market under the structural adjustment programme of the World Bank, the power of land clearing by tobacco farmers has increased to 90% of about 20,000 farmers who now clear new land for tobacco within four years time (half of them even every year) compared to only 30% during the 1980s (only 18% each year).
Still, the area is rich of woodlands, but more than half of the farmers have no adequate supply of wood. When asked to specify the reasons, 72% of the farmers said, that the distance to go for wood is far since nearby trees had been cleared and there are no means of transport other than walking. 90% of the farmers confirmed that there had been a decline of trees during the past 5 year. When asked to speicify the reasons, tobacco farming plays the major part with 29% of the answers given: land clearance for seedbeds and plots, firewood for curing and polewood for storing. All agricultural activities taken together account for 73% of the arguments. Tobacco as a pioneer crop is of first importance and highest ranked.
In the Namwera Highlands of southern Malawi, next to the border of Mozambique, commercial tobacco is grown since about 100 years. The land use map, drawn from satellite data, shows how large scale commercial farming of flue (in red colour) is graphically, literally and in reality eating up the woodlands (in green colour). Nearly all woodlands now are forest reserves, almost no indigenous woodland on customary land is left. Smallholder tobacco is grown on flat lands (in yellow) since 1990 when tobacco liberalization also allowed smallholders to grow burley on small plots. The number of burley growers increased from almost none to 7,200 in 5 years' time. However, more than half of the cultivated land is owned by tobacco estates that also account for the major part of the areas's wood use being as high as 75,000 tonnes per year. Among 8,000 tobacco farmers in the area, white flue farmers, most of them Greek settlers, are holding the largest estates (with several hundreds of ha's). They form 3% of all tobacco farms, but consume more than 80% of all the wood used in the area. More than half of the wood has been drawn from illegal sources outside the estate what clearly contributes to deforestation. The Extension Service of Malawi is very much aware of the high wood use of flue, recommending to the farmer to have 10% of the farm land under planted trees. 80% of the estate farmers and all Greek farmers had not. Satellite imagery has proved that from 1972 to 1991, the area under miombo declined by 11% in hilly areas and by 85% in flat areas which are the most suitable tobacco lands.
Be it in the woody highlands of southern Tanzania or in the deforested highlands of Namwera, be it flue, burley or fire-cured tobacco, be it on smallholdinbgs or large estates, around 80% of all tobacco farmers confirmed, that there had been a fall in the number of trees during the past 5 years (fall is given with the second column).
The table specifies the sources of wood for curing and storing of tobacco (underlined in blue) and other uses of smallholders in Songea and Namwera. While all flue estates in Namwera take wood now from across the border (in Mocambique), smallholder farmers in Namwera take a minor part (12%) from woodlots, while the major part (88%) is bought or stolen from forest reserves or taken illegally from across the border. In Songea, again only a minor part of the wood (12%) is taken from private of village woodlots, while the major part (88%) is taken from indigenous natural woodlands being still available there. This can hold true for the whole of Tanzania, as the most recent Tobacco Marketing Review states: ,Tanzania has a large potential to increase production of flue and fire-cured through acreage expansion and raising productivity. The country has plenty of uncultivated land suitable for tobacco production (...)" (Majengo 1996, 2). The Dutch financed regional development plan of Songea, designed here in Utrecht, is not very sensitive to the environmental consequences of tobacco and is very much in line with the way how it is put by the Tobacco Marketing Review (SODA Kilimo 1995, SODA 1996). To be more specific, there had been no effort at all to integrate an Agroforestry and Soil Conservation Programme with its tobacco components (Kilimo Mseto), that had been cancelled at the beginning of this year when the buying monopoly of the regional co-operative was broken in favour of international buying agencies operating now in the area.
Tobacco induced deforestation in Africa is probably most serious in Malawi where tobacco is the major player of the economy accounting for 50-70% of all export earnings. The map shows three sites in the southern, central and northern region providing evidence how tobacco contributes to deforestation since about 100 years.
The area under tobacco is marked in black and miombo woodlands in green. Colonial tobacco production started in the southern region at the end of the 19th century with a tobacco auction established in the late 1930s. Later it shifted into the central region where a tobacco auction was established in the late 1970s and where most of the large estates are concentrated now. In the historical core area of tobacco in the south, almost all woodlands have been eliminated. The area has now exceeded its agrarian and ecological carrying capacity, and even if maximal efforts of afforestation were taken, the supply with fuelwood will not be guaranteed up to the year 2000. Limits of production are clearly to seen in the central area, where estates start to encroach upon forest reserves, national parks and game reservers due to scarcity of wood from indigenous woodlands. Tobacco production again shifted farther north where a tobacco auction was established recently in Mzuzu. The northern region still is densly forested and provides plenty of easily accessible wood. The miombo/tobacco frontier can be clearly seen here (Erhard 1994, Houtkamp 1993).
Much of the tobacco expansion during post-colonial times has been enabled by development aid, especially rural development programmes. When comparing the woodland area of Mlomba in southern Malawi in 1960 and 1995, the effects of the Integrated Rural Development Scheme Shire East can be clearly seen: rural water supply, marketing facilities and a tarmac road have raised the value of the area, so that large tobacco estates came into the area. Indigenous woodlands on customary land were completely removed with influential tobacco farmers, like nowadays president Dr. Muluzi, having even encroached upon forest reserves. The south-african managed Mgodi and Naminga Estates of long-time president Dr. Banda, with Mgodi having a private railway station, is possibly the world's largest burley producer now, whereas Atupele and Mpira Estate belong the nowadays president Dr. Muluzi. The red cross marks a woodfuel project of the World Bank.
The German funded development project started in the late 1970s and had been designed to increase smallholders' income by raising the production of maize within the overall framework of National Rural Development Planning (NRDP). When the project came into being, large tracts of land were taken by transnational companies and members of the political elite. 56% of the land is now owned by 2 persons (former president and dictator Dr. Banda and nowadays president Dr. Muluzi, then being chief secretary of Dr. Banda's unitiy party). When a tarmac road, funded by the German Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has linked the area to the tobacco auction, the World Bank financed a Woodfuel Project by cutting serveral hundreds of hectares of miombo woodland to provide wood to the newly established estates. The rural development project stopped its activities in 1991, when it had been obvious that raising commercial maize production was a failure and that no measures of stopping ecological deterioration were taken (Geist 1986, Kock et al. 1991). No word was given to tobacco what is very much typical of the tobacco/environment debate. Easily a blind eye is turnt to tobacco when it comes to environmental consequences. There are consequences due to modern agriculture per se, but there is also evidence of unique tropical deforestation as can be seen from the example of miombo woodlands in Africa.
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Tobacco and smoking pose massive problems of health and ecology. Easily a blind eye is turnt to tobacco when there is evidence that tobacco farming has profound ecological implications besides the consequences of modern agriculture per se. Since commercial tobacco production, for the first time in its history since the early 17th century (Virginia), has recently shifted into tropical countries on a global scale, the use of wood for curing tobacco has been regarded to put excessive stress upon natural woodlands and forests where no alternative sources of energy were available, thus contributing to tropical deforestation. This holds especially true for densely populated and ecologically sensitive tropical dryland areas, i.e. savannas, campos cerrados, dry forests and woodlands under semiarid or semihumid climatic conditions, where tropical tobacco production is found to be concentrated (not so much in rain forest areas). While undisturbed forests and woodlands of dryland ecosystems in South America and Asia have already been eliminated and transformed into cultivated land, thus urging tobacco growers to change their wood-based curing methods to oil, gas or coal, miombo woodlands of Southern Africa still cover 3.4 Mill. km2, thus constituting the world's largest and more or less contiguous dry forest area where 90% of the african tobacco production is concentrated. These are mostly member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) like Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania where most of the data are provided. The importance of miombo as a global source for tobacco production is stressed.
Both from experimental design and empirical field studies it is found that average fuelwood use of flue-cured tobacco, i.e. Bright or Virginia, is considerably higher (8.0-14.2 kg/kg) than stated by the tobacco industry or lobby (4.8-5.5 kg/kg), with fire-cured (smoked) varieties being even higher. Recent surveying suggests that - besides firewood for curing - the use of polewood for constructing tobacco barns and sheds (i.e. storing) cannot be neglected where alternative construction materials are not easily available. Therefore, even air-cured varieties like Burley have to be included when calculating the overall use of wood by tobacco farmers. Total wood use for curing and storing thus increases by another 7 to 34% per farm when compared to what is usually specified as specific fuelwood consumption (SFC). Moreover, from a methodological point of view, it is shown that SFC, expressed in kg wood per 1 kg tobacco, is a misleading type of measurement when it comes to assess the real dimensions of pressure upon woodland resources and resulting deforestation (solid wood problem). Instead, if absolute measures were taken, i.e. cubic metres (m3) or steres, wood use of tobacco farmers turns out to constitute a significant and serious contribution to deforestation on a regional and national scale (stacked wood evidence). For example, 10,000 ha of natural woodlands are at present cleared in Malawi every year to provide firewood and polewood for flue and burley production by tobacco estates (not taken into account the booming smallholder sector and fire-cured varieties), as compared to 13,000 ha in Tanzania (not taken into account smoked varieties and burley grown by smallholders) and 140,000 ha as a total of the SADC countries (only for curing).
For the 1990s, it is shown that there are major social driving forces of tobacco induced environmental change which could hold true for all tropical regions (verified here for Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania): (1) the enormous labour-intensity of tobacco cultures, making considerable use of women and children workforce, fits to rapid population growth (+3.2%) and deforestation (-1.1%), both annual rates being among the highest in the world; (2) agriculture-based economies heavily depend upon income generation and export earnings derived from tobacco with multiplier effects into almost all economic sectors due to lack of other cash cropping alternatives and based upon the economic laws of missing economies of scale and the Thünen-criterion; (3) while indigenous and dry season grown tobacco (N. rustica) had been eliminated by white agricultural policy, rainy season grown and american types of tobacco (N. tabacum) account for 96% of all tobacco grown; (4) while profitable flue production has been limited to large and mostly european commercial farms (estates) or african settlement schemes funded by foreign donors, recent restructuring of agriculture (derugulation) means a further impetus for cash-stripped smallholders to expand the miombo/tobacco frontier; (5) the explanatory power of social, economic and political factors will founder unless the complexity of smoking American blend cigarettes as a cultural artefact is not recognized (fast food tobacco), i.e. the socio-cultural prestige of western brands, the pharmacological addiction to flue, and the aggressive marketing strategies of oligopolistic transnational companies of the West.