Six years later, tobacco farmers in Masindi have never received their pay

Ms Jennifer Achola prepares her tobacco for sale at Kaigo Village in Kiziramfumbi Sub-county, Kikuube District./FILE PHOTO

More than 10,000 tobacco farmers from Kasenene and Kajuura Parishes in Nyantonzi Sub-county, Bujenje County in Masindi District have until now never been paid for the tobacco leaves they supplied to Premium Tobacco Company.

Farmers from 13 villages sold their tobacco to Premium Tobacco Company in 2015 in anticipation of lifting their financial statuses so they could positively adjust their standard of living at household level.

Little knowing the ultimate upshot, the eagerness drove the farmers into engaging in the tedious tobacco growing venture that sees them take a year to harvest the crop that requires hefty attention right from nursery bed before one harvests.

However, their dreams stopped in full flow when the company responsible for purchasing their tobacco disappeared in thin air without paying them their proceeds from the agricultural produce.  

Mr Apollo Aweko, one of the affected farmers, wonders why farmers in other districts like Hoima were paid yet those of Masindi remain unpaid.

Audio: Aweko on nonpayment (Kiswahili)

Mr Shadrach Ogeni, another farmer says paying tuition fees for their children, house construction, establishing projects providing blue and pink collar jobs were among other ventures that glowed at the back of the farmers’ minds had the company paid them.

He says efforts to demand their money were halted after farmers were told that “the company manager who was responsible for their payment died long time ago”.

Mr Ogeni says the farmers have on many times engaged Masindi district authorities over the matter but in vain.

Audio: Ogeni on nonpayment (Kiswahili)

In response to the grievance, the area Member of Parliament, Lt (Rtd) Patrick Kasumba, said President Museveni directed the Minister of Finance to ensure that government pays all farmers who were not paid by tobacco companies come February 2021.

He said the minister revealed that Shs10b is needed to pay all tobacco farmers who were not paid all over the country adding that the Minister of Bunyoro Affairs was recently assigned to spearhead the verification exercise of all claimants.

Audio: Kasumba on nonpayment (Kiswahili)

Bunyoro forms coalition against tobacco growing

Last week, a coalition was formed to champion a campaign aimed at fighting tobacco growing and consumption in Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.

Dubbed ‘Bunyoro Tobacco Control Coalition’, the alliance is charged with mobilisation of stakeholders to sensitive the communities about the health and socio-economic shortcomings associated with tobacco growing, consumption and any other form of exposure to it.

The Hoima District Inspector of Drugs, Mr David Timbigamba, says tobacco contributes greatly to the psycho-active substances embraced mainly by the youths in Bunyoro region.

“Tobacco goes ahead to affect almost all parts of the body through the nerves causing irreversible health complications.”

Hajj Burhan Kyakuhaire, the Special Assistant on Cultural Affairs in the office of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Prime Minister said the kingdom is highly supportive of efforts to control tobacco farming basing on its record of causing food insecurity and health complications.

“Our King, Dr Solomon Gafabusa Iguru, has been discouraging his subjects from tobacco farming advising them to focus on maize, coffee, rice and other crops that can only bring in cash but also enable them to have food security.”

The law

Ms Patience Butesi, a Tobacco Control Programme Officer at the Health Ministry urges stakeholders to popularise the Tobacco Control Act of 2016 as a basis keeping the community aware of the legal consequences of tobacco consumption alongside the horrendous health ones.

She said Uganda is obliged to fight tobacco after signing the World Health Organization (WHO’s) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2007.

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