In China, 350 million inhabitants smoke. Almost 20 million Chinese farmers make the world’s largest share of tobacco products, approximately 40 percent of the global stocks. What is the key to decreasing the number of deaths and smoking-related health problems? Persuade Chinese tobacco farmers to grow some other crop. Ex-tobacco farmers load new produce for market as part of crop-substitution special program. Virginia Li, a professor of community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, set out to do just that.
She leaded local Chinese agriculture officials in Yunnan Province, where Asia’s largest cigarette maker is located. Li and her local partners designed a tobacco crop–substitution new project, the central part of which is a farmer-led, for-profit firm.
The tobacco farmers, many of whom are not officially educated, were able to get the knowledge and skills essential to replace food crops, including fruits and vegetables, for tobacco products. By doing that, their every year benefit increased by 21 per cent and 110 per cent per acre of land, and the quantity of tobacco crops being grown was reduced.
A study on the new project appears in the current online edition of the American Journal of Public Health. In 2003, the World Health Organization featured the need to supply “support for economically useful alternative” activities for tobacco workers, growers and sellers. China was among the 192 WHO member nations that signed the organization’s landmark international agreement, declaring its engagement to smoking control. It was a significant choice for a country in which almost 20 million households and 100 million people depend on tobacco crop, producing and sales for their livelihood.
Asia’s biggest cigarette maker, the Hongta Group, is situated in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, in a tobacco-growing municipality named Yuxi. Yunnan is well-known for its tobacco crop, and the province’s choicest farming land is committed to the plant. Tobacco products have promoted Yuxi’s economy to first in the province, where more than 600 million mu of farmland manufacture tobacco. The amount of Chinese farmer owns about one mu of land, and a family may own three to seven mu.