Regional Contact Person
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.
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
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