british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2010 - Sustainable agriculture in Fiji

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Sustainability Report 2010

British American Tobacco Fiji is the only business in the Australasia area that covers the complete tobacco supply chain, from tobacco growing to manufacturing and distribution of the finished product.

In Fiji, tobacco farming is increasingly considered a profitable alternative to other agricultural crops, as it provides a guaranteed and stable market and a steady source of income. According to a 2004 assessment [ 1 ], tobacco farming has a significant multiplier effect on the economy – every dollar generated by tobacco farmers results in $4 generated elsewhere in the economy.

British American Tobacco Fiji works with 450 directly contracted tobacco farmers and has a well established sustainable agriculture programme which focuses on:

  • Agronomy support to improve quality and crop yields, as well as helping with environmental improvements;
  • Encouraging the eradication of child labour; and
  • Contributing to the economic and social welfare of the community.

Agronomy support

As with all the Group’s tobacco leaf suppliers, the farmers in Fiji are required to undertake Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production (SRTP) assessments. These focus on driving improvements in their social and environmental performance. Leaf managers at British American Tobacco Fiji also work alongside the farmers in the fields to provide quality seed, farming equipment, transport and guidance on crop management, soil and water protection and environmental best practice.

Since 2004, the company has enhanced the quality of seedlings through the construction of specialised greenhouses. These seedlings not only help to improve the overall yield but also ease transplanting, with a 98 per cent success rate compared to 40–60 per cent previously.

This agronomy support is not limited to tobacco farming. As tobacco is a seasonal crop, the company provides cash crop seedlings to the tobacco farmers during the off season of September to February. These cucumber, tomato, pawpaw and lettuce seedlings, supplied to the farmers at reduced cost, enable them to increase their income and allow for crop rotation on the farmed land. This is run in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture.

In line with Group best practice, the company was the first in Fiji to completely phase out the use of methyl bromide as a pesticide in the production of tobacco seedlings. Methyl bromide contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer and is toxic to humans and animals if inhaled or ingested. In 2008, the Fiji Department of Environment awarded the company a certificate of appreciation for ‘Outstanding Performance and Contribution towards the Successful Implementation of the Montreal Protocol in Fiji’.

British American Tobacco Fiji has also undertaken several trials to further reduce the environmental impact of tobacco growing. These include planting Neem trees around the seedling greenhouses, which act as natural insect repellents, reducing the use of fungicide and pesticide by over 50 per cent. The company also introduced the use of transitional fertilisers (a mix of organic and chemical fertilisers) and the planting of native Vativa grass, the root system of which binds the soil thus reducing erosion.

Tackling child labour

In 2004, an independent study on the occurrence of child labour in Fiji’s tobacco growing industry was commissioned by the Fiji Employers’ Federation and carried out by Farm Consultancy Services. The study was modelled on the methodology of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Prior to its release, the results of the study were made available to the Fiji Employers Federation, the ILO and British American Tobacco Fiji for comment.

The study found no evidence of ongoing forced labour in the industry for either adults or children. It did find that the farming communities surveyed expect rural children to assist with family tasks including working with the tobacco crop.

One of the study’s conclusions was that there was limited understanding in the rural community of the issues of child labour. In response to the findings, British American Tobacco Fiji supplemented its existing contractual clauses prohibiting child labour with an awareness campaign for the farming communities. The campaign emphasised the importance of school attendance and the safe use of farm chemicals. The company also provided financial support, such as advance payment schemes, for farmers’ children to attend school.

In 2010, the company carried out a review to assess progress. The findings indicated that, since 2003, the use of child labour in Fiji’s tobacco farming communities had fallen by nearly 50 per cent, from 20 to 11 per cent. No instances of bonded or forced labour were found. Awareness of child labour issues among farmers had increased from 20 per cent in 2003 to 80 per cent. Furthermore, the number of children who reported working with farm chemicals had fallen to 1 per cent from 10 per cent in 2003. The company’s awareness programmes have made a significant contribution to the reduction of child labour in Fiji’s tobacco farming.

Contributing to the community

In addition to its agronomy support, British American Tobacco Fiji contributes to the economic and social welfare of the country’s farming communities. For example, the company supports the Nature’s Way Cooperative which carries out quarantine treatments on behalf of Fiji’s fruits and vegetables export industry. By supporting the services that Nature’s Way provides, the company helps small farmers gain access to export markets for their rotation crops.

In 2010, in partnership with Rotary Pacific Water for Life Foundation, British American Tobacco Fiji undertook a project to bring a water supply to Tuvu Village in the Sigatoka valley, where a number of the 150 residents are tobacco farmers. Residents were also trained on how to maintain the new facility. This project is part of Rotary Pacific’s broader initiative to provide agricultural communities with access to sustainable sources of safe drinking water.

Through this comprehensive approach to sustainable agriculture, British American Tobacco Fiji is helping the whole community to be more sustainable.

  1. Dr Prasad B. The Economic Contribution of the Tobacco Industry in the Fiji Islands (2004). Suva, Fiji Islands.