In the southern African country Malawi, tobacco is the major export crop- responsible for 70% of all export earnings. Agriculture is the mainstay of Malawi’s economy- accounting for over 90% of the GDP. Out of a total population of 11 million, the majority of Malawians are farmers- and 7 million owe their livelihoods to the tobacco industry. But economic dependency on tobacco has not brought the country wealth. According to the World Bank, over 60% of Malawians live below the poverty line- with limited access to land, little education and poor health. Yet, despite the poor returns from tobacco growing, the government has actually increased the land under cultivation. Now as Up in Smoke shows, Malawians are beginning to question if the wealth promised from growing tobacco is really an illusion.
Up in Smoke co-directed by Marty Otañez (fairtradetobacco.org; sidewalkradio.net) and Christopher Walker for Television Trust for the Environment (2003)