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Independent research

Independent research

The role of tobacco growing in rural livelihoods

We have commissioned independent research to help contribute to the evidence-base regarding the impacts of tobacco growing, and as part of our commitment to transparency and continuous improvement.

Global supply chains have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. This includes their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and impacts on biodiversity, climate change, rural poverty, food security, child labour, and working conditions. Some organisations have chosen to single out tobacco cultivation in particular when discussing the risks and impacts of various agricultural practices.

To help contribute to this debate and the body of evidence relating to these allegations, we have commissioned independent research to examine the impacts of tobacco growing and the role it plays in rural livelihoods. The research was conducted by IMC Worldwide, one of the world’s leading international development consultancies, and took place between September 2018 and May 2019, consisting of two key phases:

  • Literature review: a critical review of the published literature and evidence base relating to the environmental impacts, social effects and occupational health and safety risks associated with tobacco growing.
  • Country case studies: field research in three contrasting tobacco-growing countries – Bangladesh, Brazil and Kenya – involving a total of 257 interviews with different types of farmers, including tobacco farmers contracted to BAT and to other companies, farmers who cultivate other crops, and tobacco farm labourers, as well as a small number of other local stakeholders.

A study on the impacts of tobacco growing and role it plays in rural livelihoods, IMC Worldwide (2019). (3.2 mb) 

Our overarching research question was to identify if tobacco growing reduces resilience and prevents farmers and rural communities from prospering. Overall, we found no evidence of this. In fact, among our samples, tobacco growing appears to play an important and positive role in the livelihoods of tobacco farmers and labourers in Bangladesh, Brazil and Kenya.
Graham Haylor, PhD, research lead author

Previous research

The IMC research provides an update to a study we commissioned in 2012, conducted by Development Delivery International (DDI). This also comprised a literature review and field research in Bangladesh, Brazil and Uganda.

The role of tobacco growing in rural livelihoods – Rethinking the debate around tobacco supply reduction, DDI (2012). (4.3 mb) 

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