Suzanne Wise | Zambia | 20 October 2017
A few weeks after I joined JTI as the new Head of Corporate Development, one of the main highlights while learning about the business was my trip to Zambia. It was a real privilege and a truly humbling visit. In Zambia alone, we have direct leaf buying contracts with over 7000 Zambian farmers. Not only was I keen to understand how we run our leaf operations there, I also wanted to see for myself and understand our Agricultural Labor Practices program, as well as the ARISE program in operation, both so critical to the company.
I saw the whole leaf operation, from the planting of seedlings, through the buying process, to the initial processing of the tobacco in our third party partners facilities in central Lusaka.
On the way I visited local tobacco farms, local schools, the health clinic and women's savings collective all of which we support, notably via ARISE. The work done by the ARISE program to keep the children in school, to teach the adults how to read through the adult literacy program, and teach them sustainable agricultural practices to help maximize their tobacco yield, and hence their annual income, was humbling.
I particularly loved the support provided by village women's saving circles that enable the local women to save, provide each other with a form of insurance for a rainy day and small loans to develop small scale businesses.
Getting to know and see what ARISE is accomplishing was really inspiring. Together with our partners, the ILO and Winrock International, the program is achieving fantastic results and is getting children out of child labor and into education. By working closely with communities, farmers, teachers, governments and other business leaders, we’re able to prevent child labor through education. We all have a role to play in solving this issue, and this collaboration is key to understanding the challenges and creating tailored, efficient and long-term solutions. With programs like ARISE, we are slowly helping change farmers’ lives for the better while securing a responsible and sustainable approach to tobacco growing.
It was an overall inspirational experience, and I am very proud to have witnessed the results of our collective efforts to eradicate child labor.