Photo Essay: The Tobacco Workers of Lombok Island

Photo Essay: The Tobacco Workers of Lombok Island

Even though Katja and I do not smoke, we observed with great fascination how tobacco is gathered and processed during our stay on Lombok Island in Indonesia in September, 2014. Like pretty much any activity in Indonesia, tobacco requires lots of manual labor, usually involving whole families or even entire villages.

Tobacco plants cover large areas of central Lombok, and women of all ages work in the fields.

Harvesting tobacco

A bale of tobacco is surprisingly heavy, so harvesting the leaves and loading them in trucks is mostly a men’s activity.

Loading tobacco bales

The children are usually the ones sorting the leaves and tying them up on wooden sticks for drying. (Please let’s not start a discussion about child labor here. Child labor is a terrible problem and we would love to find a solution for it one day, but not in this simple photo essay.)

Tobacco leaves

It’s amazing how many racks a family can prepare in a day!

Tobacco leaves

The drying racks are hung inside brick silos for drying.

Preparing tobacco for drying

The silos are very tall …

Tobacco drying tower

… and some real acrobatics are needed to get safely up and down the bamboo beams.

Inside the tobacco drying tower

After the drying even more manual work is necessary.

Tying dry tobacco

But apparently it’s all worth it when the final product makes the locals (and not only them!) this happy!

Man smoking

Have you travelled to a tobacco-growing country? Which one, and was the process similar or much more industrialized? Share your experiences in the comments below…

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