‘Processing a hectare of tobacco may consume woodfuel equivalent to one hectare of savannah woodland’’
It is very true that tobacco is essentially a smallholder enterprise in Tanzania. There are so far more than 56,500families, with more than 339,000 people, engaged in tobacco growing.
The production involves the use of indigenous species which are Brachystegia, Jubernadia, Erythophreum africanum, Afromosia angolensis and Eucalyptus spp. These indigenous species are difficult to be regenerated because of adverse environmental factors as well as the inherent characteristics of some of the species involved.
Worse enough it takes long period to regenerate since the areas temporarily abandoned during the rotation period are rarely planted with trees; instead, agricultural crops - maize, millets, and groundnuts are planted. So, excessive forest clearing continues. The process of clearing land for growing tobacco involves also use of bush fires hence deforestation. A thousands tonnes of woodlogs are needed for processing tobacco in processing industries annually.
It is estimated that more than 65 000 ha of forests or bush lands are burned/cleared every year.Bush fires for clearing land also destroy useful microbes hence change soil properties and decrease its fertility. Leaching may result, impoverishing the soil and making forest regeneration difficult and expensive. This has been the case in the tobacco-growing area of Tabora, for example. The impoverishment of the soil, and the environment as a whole, does not only adversely affect woodland regeneration, it also reduces tobacco production.
As a matter of fact to process 25.2 million kg of tobacco after harvest, 3.36 million cubic meters of fuel wood will be required, assuming that a cubic meter of fuel wood is enough for processing 7.5 kg of tobacco leaves. It should be noted also that Tanzania has a capacity to process more than 51 million kg of tobacco annually.
It is true that tobacco contributes much income in our national economic but it should be noted that if measures and alternatives won't be taken in the processing industries, our forests are highly exposed to extiction. Measures should be taken to ensure sustainability like for instance to practice intensive farming which will avoid clearing of vast area for cultivation but rather maintain a small area with much output.
Not only that but also use of other source of fuels which are more sustainable and environmental friendly such as biofuel is highly recommended. Biofuel can be generated through tobacco residues after processing hence produce enough energy for processing while recycling and protecting our environment from degradation.
A good example of tobacco processing industry that use clean energy for processing is in Morogoro - Tobacco Industry where by they have installed a very big biofuel plant, it works.
Ruth John-YET 2011
Reviewed by Victoria Maeda.