How the tobacco merchants in Zimbabwe address sustainability in leaf production
The major tobacco merchants in Zimbabwe have worked for several years to ensure sustainability and traceability of contracted tobacco. Due to the market organisation, this covers approximately 60 % of total domestic production.
Companies have adopted policies, codes of practice, recording and monitoring systems and external verification systems which ensure full traceability of the leaf and of the practices followed at each contracted farm. Companies have also invested in the necessary structure to fulfil the objectives of their sustainability and traceability programmes. The main programmes adopted, somehow overlapping, address governance, productivity, environmental and social issues. While some of the programmes are competitive, some activities have been addressed as a sector to magnify the impact and the results.
Responsible curing practices address the improvement of curing barns (research by the Tobacco Research Board [TRB] and other independent bodies) and the availability of sustainable fuel which does not affect natural forests. With this purpose in mind, the merchants set up the Sustainable Afforestation Association (SAA) recognizing that earlier efforts to reverse deforestation were not effective enough, and that a different approach was needed. SAA provides a sustainable source of timber for use in the tobacco industry; it investigates and implements strategies for the conservation and rejuvenation of existing indigenous and commercial forests and it undertakes activities and projects directly or indirectly relating to the provision of sustainable sources of timber and the conservation and rejuvenation of existing timber resources. SAA complements the individual company activities of tree planting with their contracted farmers and communities.
Social programmes need to be tailored to the situation in the field. The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) worked closely with the Ministry of Labour to carry out a farmer survey to identify issues such as child labour and unsafe working conditions. The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) is working on guidelines to be followed by the sector.