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El Nino Impacts Zimbabwean Tobacco Revenue

Shouting, sweating and stamping their feet, dozens of farm labourers fill Tinago Chisvo's makeshift office to demand their money, as the tobacco farmer desperately tries to explain the crisis that has hit his farm. Nobody listens.

"We don't want to hear stories," bellows one angry labourer. "You must just pay us for the job we did for you!"

But Chisvo has no money to give them. Like many of Zimbabwe's tobacco farmers, he ignored warnings of an impending El Nino-induced drought and continued planting.

But the rains he relies on never came, and his crop in Mutoko district in Mashonaland East Province, a rural district 143 km east of Harare, has been devastated.

"I am heavily in debt because my tobacco this year gave me very little cash in return, which will all go toward settling my debts, first with workers and second with banks that capitalised my venture," Chisvo told the Thompson Reuters Foundation.

Zimbabwean tobacco farmers hit by El Nino's scorching heat and lack of rain are reeling, forced to sell what remains of their poor-quality crops for a third of what they charged last year.

Without the money they usually make selling the so-called “golden leaf”, they and their families face joining the millions across the country who are increasingly hungry.

Karoley Lorentey

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