Customary Rights and Societal Stakes of Large-Scale Tobacco Cultivation in Malawi

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"This study investigates how diverse dimensions of tenure and rights to land and forest resources have shifted in relation to expanded investments in tobacco, as well as the distribution of associated social, economic and environmental costs and benefits at both local and societal scales. The study focuses on the miombo woodlands of southern Africa, with particular reference to Malawi. It uses a wide variety of methods, including detailed group discussions, desk study and informal interviews. Assessments reflect mixed fortunes across a range of sectors and scales. At the local level, the expansion of tobacco engenders fundamental shifts in customary rights, disrupting crucial livelihood and safety net functions of forested lands. Forests also bear the brunt of tobacco expansion, compounding the effects of sharply rising patterns of displacement of woodland with extraction of wood for curing and the construction of barns. Whilst tobacco-induced deforestation may be localized, the mostly negative ecological externalities associated with it may--because of the public goods nature of impaired ecological services--extend way beyond the confines of the local. However, tobacco remains the major engine for economic growth and development in Malawi, its forest and ecological and other impacts notwithstanding--with the identification of strategies for re-orienting the development onto a more sustainable path remaining a major unresolved challenge."
investment, customary law, woodlands