british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2010 - Uzbekistan’s biodiversity risk and opportunity assessment

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Sustainability Report 2010

By the end of 2010, all of British American Tobacco’s leaf growing operations had completed a biodiversity risk and opportunity assessment. Our company in Uzbekistan completed its assessment in mid-2010 and is now implementing a corrective action plan.

Uzbekistan's biodiversity risk and opportunity assessmentThe assessment was carried out by the company’s leaf team with support from the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership and other local stakeholders including NGOs, academics and volunteers from the local university.

It focused on the tobacco growing areas of Urgut in the Samarkand region and the Zeravshan State Nature Reserve. As the reserve is close to tobacco growing areas, it was valuable to include it in the assessment to identify threats to ecosystems from tobacco leaf operations.

The process began with an initial screening to identify the company’s likely impacts on biodiversity. This was followed by data collection and mapping to better understand the environment in which the leaf growing operations take place. The company then refined its understanding of the biodiversity impacts and risks through fieldwork and consultation.

The main findings of the biodiversity risk and opportunity assessment were:

  • Soil is being degraded due to intensive cultivation resulting in low levels of nutrients.
  • Natural vegetation cover has been disrupted and wildlife habitats fragmented as a result of human intrusion, although this is primarily from activity other than tobacco farming, such as gathering wood for domestic fuel.

Implementation of British American Tobacco Uzbekistan’s corrective action plan started in November 2010, with initial actions to create buffer zones next to water sources and the restoration of degraded forest areas. Included in the plan is support for an afforestation programme at the Zeravshan State Nature Reserve.

To date, the region’s tobacco farmers have shown limited interest in biodiversity, so an important part of the plan is communication with farmers to increase understanding and commitment. The communication campaign will include information on environmental farming practices, such as crop rotation, irrigation and using manure to enrich the soil. This is an opportunity to help the farmers to improve their yields and therefore generate higher income, at the same time as reducing negative impacts on biodiversity.

A valuable outcome from British American Tobacco Uzbekistan’s biodiversity risk and opportunity assessment is the appraisal the company made of the resources and training required, along with the organisations and challenges involved in undertaking the assessment. This information will help local organisations to develop improved approaches to address biodiversity issues in the area and feed into the planning of future biodiversity risk and opportunity assessments to ensure they are resourced and implemented successfully.