Regional Contact Person





Silvere Tovignan
Regional Director Africa
Benin or


Brief Overview

Organic cotton production in Africa has been gaining importance since 1994. Countries that have developed an organic cotton project are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal in West Africa and Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa in Southern Africa, plus Egypt in the North.

The combined contribution of these African countries in 2010 was 7% of the world’s total organic cotton area and 2.1% of production. Producer Groups operate at a small scale, under rain fed conditions and face many poverty related challenges among which, poor access to potable water, health service and education are significant. For many farming communities, organic farming gives opportunities to women who operate as independent cotton producers. In fact, more than 35% of organic cotton producers in Africa are female.

While conventional cotton production has been decreasing in most Sub-Saharan African countries over the last five years, the organic cotton production has steadily increased. Farmers’ motivation is mostly determined by health benefits due to agrochemical-free production, organic (and fairtrade) premium prices, and low natural input prices. The farming systems adopted allow also the production of non cotton crops like sesame, cashew nut, shea butter, hibiscus and peanuts as marketable products.


Key Issues

Low productivity compared to other parts of the world

Unreliable and temporal rainfall The first rainfall, due to climate change, comes later now and it is generally followed by a long period without rain. As a consequence, farmers plant late and the seedlings suffer from water scarcity. Then, they have to replant twice or more, increasing seed and labor costs

Poor knowledge of the market means farm groups fail in matching their production to the market demand

Weak policy involvement Governmental institutions in charge of agriculture are not very active in the development of organic cotton sector



Training and knowledge exchange among stakeholders on best management practices in growing, marketing, and sales logistics

Networking Regional and global events pulling together all actors involved in organic textile supply chain

Developing management tools such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that help farmers’ groups assess impact and measures of sustainability

Evaluating costs of production and determining role of organic agriculture in improving livelihoods


Program Highlights

2006 Regional Farm meeting in Cotonou, Benin

2007 Regional Farm meeting in Cape Town, South Africa

Regional Organic cotton farmers’ Exchange meeting, Bougouni, Mali

Training of field officers of organic cotton projects in Lira, Uganda

2008 Regional Farm meeting in Kampala, Uganda

Support textile handicraft workers of Burkina Faso to exhibit organic cotton handmade textiles at SIAO 2008 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

2009 Regional training in Kolondieba, Mali

2010 Exchange trip of cotton farmers of Kéniéba (Mali) to organic cotton farmers of Koussanar -Senegal

2011 Regional training on marketing of organic products in West Africa, Cotonou, Benin