Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) Susan Wafula has said that the government was doing everything possible to ensure Tobacco farmers switch to production of safer crops for the sake of good health and economic prosperity.
She noted that people in Counties like Migori where the crop is being produced in large quantities had for a long period suffered serious ailments related to the crop and should be saved from the unnecessary deaths.
Speaking at the event to mark this year’s World Tobacco Day at Sibuaoche market in Uriri constituency within Migori County, Wafula said that it was time tobacco farmers embraced crops like the now popular Nyota beans, Sweet potato, sorghum, maize, sunflower and sugarcane among others to raise their income and health.
The CS noted that it was a pity that the prevalence rate of tobacco use among the adult in Kenya stood at 11.6 percent while that of the youth hit 9.9 percent.
This, she added, triggered the number of tobacco related deaths in the country to over 6,000 annually against the global rate of 8 million people within the same period.
The official said the ministry of health in conjunction with tobacco control bodies and foreign partners like the World Health Organization (WHO) will double efforts in persuading the over 20,000 tobacco farmers in Migori alone and the 36,000 of them countrywide to switch to safer crops.
The ministry had also made arrangement with that of education to introduce a syllabus on tobacco use in the education curriculum.
Kenya is also signatory to the global treaty on tobacco control and has so far earned ten awards for the good work of fighting the crop and, would ensure that it protected the ozone layer from the impact of tobacco, the CS added.
She said for Migori, she would take it upon herself to talk to her counterpart in agriculture to see that Sony Sugar is made vibrant to promote growing of sugarcane to be the people’s economic mainstay in future.
“Currently it is worrying that more farmers are still stuck to the production of tobacco despite the many diseases like cancer that the crop expose them to,” she lamented during the function dubbed: World No Tobacco Day with the theme – Grow Food, Not Tobacco.
Migori Governor Dr. Ochilo Ayacko who also graced the event said his government will ensure the production of Tobacco reduced drastically in the area but called for support from the national government and partners to assist in the promotion of alternative cash crops that have ready market locally and globally.
The forum was also attended by WHO officials among them Dr. Adriana Blanco who assured of their support to fight tobacco in the country.
By George Agimba