||5R01TW010898-08 Interpret this number
||American Cancer Society, Inc.
||The Political Economy of Tobacco Farming in Low-and Middle-Income Countries
The World Health Organization reports that more than six million people die each year from tobacco-related
diseases. Moreover, changing markets have generated a dramatic shift in consumption from high-income
countries (HICs) to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and by 2030 more than 80% of the disease
burden from tobacco use will fall on LMICs. To help facilitate this shift, opponents of tobacco control – led
by the tobacco industry and even some governments – have successfully used the supposed harm from
tobacco control measures to smallholder tobacco farmers as a reason to slow, stop and even reverse
tobacco control interventions, particularly in LMICs. This complex nexus of economic, agricultural and public
health policymaking may prove to be home to one of the largest threats facing tobacco control. The
emerging battleground is concentrated in countries with weaker governance capacity, more politically
vulnerable governments and a greater economic reliance on tobacco, which includes many countries in
Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. While there is a small literature examining some of these
dynamics, there is a lack of cross-country and deep, individual-level evidence about the actual livelihoods of
these farmers and the political economic context in which these dynamics are unfolding. Understanding the
complexities of these livelihoods is a crucial component to addressing this challenge: helping policymakers
to develop strategies to integrate public health and agro-economic policies positively, and in particular, to
assist farmers in finding viable economic alternative livelihoods. Such policies supporting viable alternatives
are needed to counter many existing ones that serve to propel or entrench tobacco cultivation.
This project aims to fill the large research gap in this area by examining rigorously the economic lives of
these farmers, and the political and economic processes that frame their livelihoods, in four major tobacco-
growing LMICs – Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia. To reach this aim, we will first collect and analyze
existing data and scholarship relevant to the economics and politics of tobacco farming in these regions.
Informed by these findings, we will implement individual-level economic surveys of nationally-representative
samples of farmers in four major tobacco-growing countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. We will
complement the surveys with focus group discussions with farmers across the major tobacco-growing
regions of each case country. Finally, using the expert consultation of the in-country co-investigators, we will
extensively interview relevant actors in these countries, including relevant farmer organization
representatives, ministry officials, civil society advocates, representatives of intergovernmental
organizations, and industry representatives in order to illuminate the broader structures, policies and other
important contexts that frame farmers' livelihoods.
One of the project's principal aims is to improve research and policy analysis capacity in this vital
substantive area in the region. Accordingly, there will be close cooperation among the HIC and LMIC co-
investigators not only for research collaboration, but also to train a select cohort of graduate students (four
in total) and two post-doctoral or post-graduate researchers in African universities and two in Indonesia who
focus specifically on the political economy of tobacco control in LMICs. There is also a component in which
three LMIC researchers will visit one of the North American institutions for post-doctoral studies. As the final
component of our capacity-building strategy, the multi-disciplinary team will present the key findings to
major stakeholders – policymakers, advocates and scholars – in a series of workshops across the region
that elucidate the complexities of tobacco farming with an ultimate goal of creating a policy environment that
is conducive to reducing the supply of tobacco parallel to efforts to control demand. At the same time, we
will conduct workshops to present our findings to the survey and FGD participants so they can directly
benefit from the researching to which they are contributing. These workshops will be accompanied by a
corresponding set of country-specific reports and policy briefs that will also be distributed to key
stakeholders. Finally, co-investigators will cultivate relationships with key stakeholders and engage in the
presentation of research results and meaningful policy discussions in much smaller settings.
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