british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2011 - Independent research

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Sustainability Report 2011

We do not agree with the majority of claims that tobacco farming has far worse social and environmental impacts than other agricultural crops or practices.

Independent researchIn 2011, we commissioned independent research by Development Delivery International (DDI) into the impact of tobacco growing, which comprised a literature review of over 300 published sources on the subject and field research into the circumstances of tobacco and non-tobacco farmers in three contrasting tobacco growing countries.

This literature review concluded that the existing research base was both limited and lacked contextual understanding. No clear evidence to support a causal link between tobacco cultivation and poverty or that tobacco growing necessarily leads to adverse labour or employment outcomes could be found. The literature on environmental risks was equally problematic with the possible exception of deforestation, although the evidence suggested that this is site specific and can be mitigated. It also found that there is no clear evidence that tobacco growing exacerbates poverty and that there is minimal evidence that it contributes to food insecurity.

The second part of the study took the form of a practical investigation in Bangladesh, Brazil and Uganda looking at whether tobacco cultivation poses a greater hazard to the welfare of poor people in comparison with the cultivation of other available crops. The case study results show that the claims for a direct causal link between tobacco cultivation and poverty do not hold true as a generalisation. It also found that the ability of households to move in and out of tobacco cultivation does not support a picture of entrapment; that tobacco cultivation is seen to be an important and reliable income source that enhances food security and has contributed to increasing farmers’ welfare; and that suitable agronomy support can help mitigate both environmental and health risks, such as green tobacco sickness, associated with tobacco farming.

DDI’s report contributes to the currently limited evidence base in this area and includes detailed on the ground research about the impact of tobacco cultivation on farmers’ livelihoods. The report says that the percentage of the literature reviewed that shows any peer-review or quality assurance process is rather limited and so restricts the evidence base that policy makers can work with. As a result, we are concerned that regulators will develop policy that will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of tobacco farmers and is based on neither adequate research nor robust evidence. The report can be downloaded from Opens in new window.


The review of the evidence comparing environmental risks of tobacco cultivation with other international agricultural commodities suggests that as far as environmental risk is concerned, tobacco growing would seem to pose no greater threat than any other commodity, especially when compared to crops like cotton and sugar cane, which have high requirements for agrochemicals and where land management practices can have significant negative impacts on ecosystems.

‘The role of tobacco growing in rural livelihoods: Rethinking the debate around tobacco supply reduction’ by Development Delivery International, February 2012

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