British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) has rewarded 322 farmers for driving responsible production and championing efforts to put an end to child labour in the agricultural sector. This gesture was expressed at the BATN 2019 Farmers’ Productivity Awards ceremony held at the BATN Leaf Head office in Iseyin, Oyo State, on April 18, 2019.
This year’s award ceremony, which marks its 14th edition, is themed ‘End Child Labour.’ The awards is an initiative of BATN designed to recognise tobacco farmers for attaining and delivering the planned tobacco leaf volumes through sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices, and their commitment towards the eradication of child labour.
In an opening address, the Operations Director, BAT West Africa, Waseem Hayat, identified compliance with activities focused on ending child labour as one of the key measures of success for the farmers who received the awards at the occasion.
”The choice of the message for this year’s Farmers’ Awards reflects our unyielding advocacy against the use of school age children in any form within the value chain involved in the production and sale of our tobacco products,” he added.
Speaking further, he said that the BATN tobacco farming partners were motivated to deliver on agreed volumes for the planting season, noting that “the company encourages its farming partners to engage in food crop production alongside tobacco production, while protecting and conserving the natural forest.”
In his address, the Legal and External Affairs Director, BAT West Africa, Freddy Messanvi, commended the farmers for their longstanding partnership with the company and resilience in the face of the socio-economic challenges in the country. He said that the 2019 Farmers’ Awards was the company’s way of appreciating successful farmers for their compliance with set guidelines.
“Our farming partners are the heart of our business. They have consistently shown their dedication and resilience towards meeting our high production standards despite the constantly changing environmental, social and economic realities of the country and the difficulties they sometimes encounter as tobacco farmers,” he remarked.
Also speaking at the occasion, Permanent Secretary, Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture, Victor Adewale Atilola, described BATN’s gesture as a source of motivation for farmers and expressed the Oyo State government’s satisfaction with the partnership and in particular the assured market that BATN provides for the tobacco farmers. He said that the sustainability of agricultural development lies in the hands of the private sector, noting that government is established to provide the enabling environment for the agricultural sector to thrive.
“BATN has always been a household name when it comes to tobacco growing and has even extended that to some food crops. The most important thing in farming business is to have an assured market and this is being provided by BATN. This will encourage them to do better,” he said.
The Secretary, Nigeria Independent Tobacco Association (NITA), Abiodun Fagbemi, in a note of appreciation expressed satisfaction with BATN’s provision of essential items for the farmers’ business. While describing the award as a further demonstration of BATN’s desire to reward diligent and compliant tobacco farmers, he noted that the beneficiaries were drawn from several other towns and communities in Oyo State and beyond.
The criteria for this year’s awards are: tobacco volume contribution, adoption of efficient tobacco curing systems, growing of food crops, zero usage of natural forest for tobacco production, attendance to child labour eradication meetings, successful child labour spot checks scores and evidence of children’s school attendance. The items awarded include: motorcycles, refrigerators, generators, standing fans and mobile telephones. A pickup van was also donated by BATN to the Forestry Department of the Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development to support the day to day official and business activities of the Ministry.