As all activities, also tobacco production interacts with the environment. We are committed to minimize the impact of leaf production on the environment through appropriate and advanced techniques. Our members are trained on and follow a range of practices to safeguard the environment where they live. Like for all agricultural production, the three most important resources to achieve good yields of good-quality tobacco are fertilizers, plant protection products, and water. Tobacco grows well also in poor soils where other plants would not thrive, but it nonetheless requires some fertilizers especially in the very light soils of the tropical countries.
Environmental awareness and the active promotion of tree-planting have had clearly positive impacts, in some areas even reversing the effects of deforestation. In the major Virginia tobacco-producing regions of southern Brazil, for example, wood has always been the most economical and viable fuel for the curing process. Nevertheless, tobacco growers in the region of the country have emerged as the most conscientious wood-users in the country, directly contributing to the doubling of the natural forest cover of the state of Rio Grande do Sul in only twenty years. It can impossibly be denied that Brazil stands out as a prime example of the commitment there has been to develop sustainable wood fuel resources.
Choice of an energy source
The choice of an energy source, regardless of its purpose, is always dependent on factors like availability, delivery cost, general convenience, labour requirements, and efficiency. Thus, particularly people living in developing countries often prefer to use – for domestic, agricultural and other purposes – wood rather than alternative fuels, as it is cheap and readily available. Wood continues to be for them a fuel of necessity rather than of choice.
In our present days, most of the wood-using countries are actively encouraged to conserve their existing resources, especially since much flue-cured tobacco is grown in countries with a deficit or a prospective deficit of fuel-wood. Encouragement is given to afforestation projects and to improving the techniques of curing and barn design and construction.
Other Curing Alternatives
Air curing does not require fuels, but in some countries the cheapest and most available material to build a curing barn is wood. Rather than cutting trees, our members in Malawi, one of the largest producers of Burley air-cured tobacco, use “live barns”. These consist of a shed that is built using the trunks of trees which have been planted at a prescribed distance: so the trunks become the pillars of the shed. Given the speed of growth of some tree species in Africa, farmers can have a live barn in three years from planting the trees: such a barn will last at least 30 years and will need only occasional rethatching. In Asia, the structure of air barns is bamboo, a very fast-growing plant that forms a clump of straight and very strong culms.
ITGA is the only worldwide Tobacco Growers’ association leading growers around the globe since 1984 in the search for a better sustainable future.
ITGA was created 20 years ago by the main tobacco growing countries at the time and since then sustainability of our farmers and their communitties have been key in the core objectives of our association.