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Antardhwani, HCG’s independent think tank helping tobacco farmers grow alternative crops in Hunsur

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Mysuru: More than 1.3 million people die of tobacco use every year in India and a majority of them are afflicted with Cancer. The country, which is the second largest consumer of tobacco in the world, accounts for almost half of all oral cancers and the highest burden of tuberculosis globally. 

The 2022 Tobacco Atlas released last week says there are 1.1 billion cigarette smokers in the world currently and additional 200 million who use other tobacco products.  Not surprisingly, smoking will kill 8 million people each year globally by 2030.

Yet tobacco remains to be the single most widely available addictive substance, and can be easily purchased anywhere. India is also the third largest producer of tobacco in the world, with Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and UP accounting for almost 80% of the total production.

In this direction, phased reduction in tobacco farming and helping farmers shift to a safer and economically viable alternative crop can prove to be a game changer in prevention and control of tobacco use.

In this endeavour, Antardhwani, HCG’s independent think tank, has launched the country’s first-of-its-kind alternative farming project in Karnataka’s Hunsur region, the state’s tobacco growing hub. 

The project involves 50 tobacco farmers, who are primarily growing sandalwood besides other seasonal fruits in 1 acre of their respective agricultural land, putting the project size to a total of 50 acres in the first phase. 

More than 15,000 high grade saplings of sandalwood and over 8,000 saplings of lucrative seasonal fruits have already been supplied to the farmers free of cost. We are joining forces with agronomists, ecologists, medical practitioners and other relevant experts to guide decision-making at every step of the process.

Tobacco growers in Karnataka have been unable to do so in the absence of an economically viable alternative plan. There has long been the need to identify crops which can be grown instead of tobacco in regions of different climatic and soil conditions, assure market guarantee of the produce, at the same time sensitize the farmers about the ill effects of growing tobacco on health and environment (deforestation) – a fact which they are largely unaware of. 

The project involves growers of FCV (Flue Cured Virginia) tobacco used for cigarettes, which is highly remunerative, has international market & institutional support, and is backed by the tobacco industry.

Why is a cancer hospital fighting tobacco putting at stake its own business? 

“ We all got into oncology (cancer) to save lives and cure people of this disease and not for business. That’s why HCG has over 25 state of the art cancer hospitals in the country and abroad. Now, it’s time to eliminate the root cause of cancer – which is tobacco. That’s when we doctors will actually realise our dream of saving as many lives” said Dr Ajaikumar, Executive Chairman, HCG.

Farmers Kenchegowda, Anil Gowda, Ravindra Gowda and Roop who had come from Hunsur welcomed alternate crops and they have started growing alternate crops like Sandalwood, Sapota, Guava. 

Project Statistics

No. of farmers: 50

Land size pledged: 1 acre
by each farmer

Total acreage: 50 acres

Location: Hunsur (Mysore)

Cost of 1kg FCV tobacco: Rs 150-Rs 200

Cost of 1kg sandalwood: Rs 28,000-Rs 30,000

Why Target Tobacco?

Lives lost every year owing to tobacco use in India: 13.5 lakh

Economic burden owing to tobacco use in India (2011): Rs 104,500 crore

Massive deforestation: 8kg firewood needed to cure 1kg tobacco leaves

Tobacco users in India: 266.8 million

Smokers: 99.5 million

Smokeless tobacco users: 199.3 million.

– Team Mysoorunews 



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