Are companies using study tours to promote smoking?

By Jonathan Driliga

A resident says the community lacks clean water and the only protected water source has been polluted by waste from the factory, although the factory now has a lagoon to manage wastes

John Peter Tabule, a Senior Four student at Katrini Secondary School in Arua district, says he is ready to grow tobacco better than traditional farmers in the West Nile region.

Tabule is one of the many students who have visited a demonstration farm, which was set up by the Meridian Tobacco Company (MTC) in Arua early this year.

He says extension workers hired by the tobacco company took them on a guided tour of the farm near the tobacco factory in Pajulu-Olevu village, Ajia sub-county in Arua district. This company has opened the doors of its farm to students and farmers across the West Nile region.

Christopher Butele, another student from Katrini Secondary School in Arua district, wondered why their teacher decided to take them on a tour to MTC’s processing plant in Ocoko. He said it would have been better for students to study physical features such as rivers, mountains and rift valleys in the region that is endowed with rich flora and fauna.

Another 17-year-old student, who was part of the team that toured the factory and the demonstration farm, said they were hit with an unpleasant smell inside the factory. “I told my teacher the smell of tobacco dust was bad for me, but he advised us to tolerate the situation. If I had known about the provisions of the law barring those under 21 from accessing such places, I would not have gone to the tobacco,” the student said.

He said the officials at the demonstration farm take advantage of the tours to encourage the students to grow tobacco purportedly to increase their level of income. The extension workers encourage the students to apply tobacco dust that is processed as organic manure to enhance the growth of crops on the demonstration farm.

The students are not provided with masks or any other protective gear during the tours. Similarly, the students of agriculture from Ombatini Secondary School in Arua, which neigbours Katrini Secondary School, also received training at the MTC demonstration site in Ajia subcounty.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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