Going Up in Smoke: The Environmental Costs of Zimbabwe's Tobacco Boom
The growth of smallholder tobacco production in Zimbabwe has been an undoubted success story in recent years. In the last season, there were around90,000 registered producers producing nearly 170 million kilograms and around$612 million in revenue. This has been made possible in large part by land reform. In addition to tobacco profits providing much needed export earnings for the exchequer, the ability to sell a profitable crop has transformed the lives and livelihoods of many farmers in the tobacco growing areas.
But all this success has come at a cost, particularly to the environment. Most of Zimbabwe's tobacco is flue-cured on farm; across the farm landscapes of Marondera, Mazowe, Guruve, Hurungwe and beyond, there are literally hundreds of tobacco barns, all erected in the past few years. These are where tobacco is dried and cured ready for market. The farmers have learned the process quickly, and reports suggest that quality is high and increasing. However the technologies used are basic and inefficient, and rely primarily on woodfuel.