Economics of smallholder tobacco production and implications of tobacco growing on deforestation in Hurungwe district of Zimbabwe.
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Natural environment is of great importance to both human life and animals. It supports agricultural activities and this calls for environmental conservation and sustainability. However, there are fears that the tobacco crop negatively affects the environment though it is one of the major cash crops. Deforestation is one of the major effects posed by tobacco growing. This is because smallholder farmers heavily depend on firewood sourced from natural forest. The objective of the study was to investigate the economics of smallholder tobacco production and the impacts of tobacco production on deforestation in Hurungwe District. The study, first determined the gross margins for the farmers using gross margin analysis (GMA) which represent the farmer’ benefits. The costs to the environment by the tobacco farmers based on the firewood used for curing tobacco were also determined. Based on benefit cost ratio (BCR) the net benefits or cost were obtained. The study determined the cost of firewood for tobacco curing based on the farmers’ willingness to pay (WTP). This was further added to the costs of producing tobacco to see the effects of the firewood cost to the gross margin. The study further used the binary logistic regression model to explain the significance of factors influencing natural forest harvesting. The farmers interviewed in Hurungwe District were 60. Results from the gross margin analysis indicated that all farmers benefited from tobacco production (GM > 0) with an average of US$ 3 396 and ranged from US$540 to US$9700. Benefits and costs were compared and the BCR for tobacco production indicated that the benefits outweigh the costs ranging from 1.74 to 1.76. Cost of firewood based on WTP of farmers ranged from US$5 to US$304 with an average of US$74. It was noted that with the inclusion of cost of firewood, the farmers’ income is reduced to an average of US$3 322 and ranged from US$535 to US$9 453. Using the binary logistic regression model, results have shown that farmer experience, tobacco selling price and agricultural training level negatively affect the harvesting of natural forest (to obtain firewood) for curing tobacco significantly (p < 0.05). However, gender, size of the household, tobacco yield and level of education were insignificant (p > 0.05) in influencing natural forest harvesting. Though farmers are exploiting the environment at the same time increasing foreign currency earning through tobacco production, there is therefore the need to put in place policies that govern natural forest depletion such as gum plantations, subsidizing price of coal and introduce fees, penalties or taxes to the offenders. The fees must in turn be channelled towards environmental management and sustainability.