"Research shows that organic agriculture is a good option for food security in Africa – equal or better than most conventional systems and more likely to be sustainable in the longer term. The study’s analysis of 114 cases in Africa revealed that a conversion of farms to organic or near-organic production methods increased agricultural productivity by 116 per cent."
Income from the sale of certified organic cotton is obviously fundamental to organic cotton farmers’ livelihood. However, since organic cotton requires the production of other crops (such as rotation and trap crops) to maintain the organic system (e.g. to improve soil fertility, control pests and so on) there are opportunities to improve food security, provide food crops (often value-added) for the local market and even a secondary high-value product for export such as sesame oil.
Livelihoods for organic cotton farmers can be defined and improved in a number of ways:
- By having enough food available to meet the families nutritional needs.
- By contributing a supply of high quality ‘safe’ i.e residue-free food (staples and fresh produce) to local markets.
- By utilizing emerging regional organic markets. Regional markets can provide higher prices for some crops, if there is a demand for organic. Big cities and supermarket chains are growing centres of organic. These markets may also provide opportunities for growers to invest in further processing such as pressing, juicing, pulping or drying (of relevant crops) either on the farm or through local business partnerships.
- By tapping into additional export markets. Investing in growing and certifying organic farm system crops such as sesame may strengthen income security and reduce the risk associated with fluctuating prices, poor seasons and so on.
We took a closer look at crop diversification on organic cotton farms and found evidence of the benefits diversification gives the organic cotton farmer; environmentally, socially and economically. Read more in the reports provided below.
Organic cotton is usually the primary crop for market, particularly export. Food crops grown as part of the farm system are essential for family food security. Our research showed that organic cotton farmers tended, on average, to grow 6-8 additional crops as part of their farm system. Amongst these crops some of them maybe in excess of the household needs or not part of the local diet, in these cases sales can boost a farmer's income or provide a safety net if the primary cotton crop is disappointing.
Our 'Find a Producer' interactive tool provides an opportunity for farmers to communicate not only their cotton products but their other marketable crops as well.