In many cotton-producing countries, the main challenge is to find stable markets for cotton by-products and intercropped food crops. There is a growing and safe market for cotton fibre. However, selling the products (oil and cottonseed meal) and crops grown alongside cotton can be challenging.
The Beyond Cotton project is a joint initiative of WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency, with the support of the Brazilian Cotton Institute. Its objective is to support smallholder cotton farmers and public institutions in African countries in linking cotton by-products and intercropped crops – such as corn, sorghum and beans – to safe markets, including school feeding programmes.
The objective is to increase production, local income and food and nutritional security for smallholder farmers.
In Mozambique, cotton production is predominantly family-run, with around 220,000 producing families located in rural areas, benefiting approximately 1.2 million people directly. The commercialization of seed cotton (raw material) is the main source of family income. Production is concentrated mainly in the northern and central regions of the country, with approximately 180,000 hectares. Planting is usually carried out between the months of October and December and harvesting takes place from April to June. The importance of cotton in Mozambique goes beyond its weight in the trade balance and in the generation of jobs in the field: throughout its production chain, it generates between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs, including seasonal jobs and permanent ones.
In August 2019, the Beyond Cotton project organised the Participatory Workshop for Structuring the Logical Framework of the Country Project in the city of Maputo. To support these discussions, a Brazilian delegation with two experts in agronomy and nutrition from the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA) participated in a technical mission that included visits to schools and smallholder farmers in the provinces of Tete and Manica, the regions where the project operates. The Beyond Cotton project team then prepared the first version of the country project document, based on the systematization of information collected during field visits and during the participatory seminar. Since then, Brazilian and Mozambican institutions have been revising the prepared document and the country project is expected to be signed soon.
The cotton sector is the basis of the rural economy and agribusiness in Benin, with an estimated contribution of 13% of GDP. This represents about 70% of the total value of exports and 35% of tax revenue (excluding customs). The cotton sector is seen as a strategic tool to combat poverty. The commercialization of cotton seeds yields more than CFA 70 billion annually for 300,000 farmers, generating indirect income for about three million people. Cotton is grown in dryland by almost a third of Benin’s farmers and occupies about 20% of the cultivated area. The main production areas are in the north and centre of the country.
In 2019, the Beyond Cotton Project in Benin organised a Participatory Workshop for Structuring the Logical Framework of the Country Project in the city of Parakou. The main purpose was to collect information and suggestions from partner entities in Benin and Brazil to add to the initial diagnosis and support the process of jointly elaborating the country project. During the workshop, the contribution of the Beyond Cotton project to areas of the Beninese Agricultural Sector Strategic Development Plan (PSDSA) was discussed. The country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishing believes that this project can boost the sector and especially the lives of smallholder cotton producers. Since then, the team has been working on drafting the country project document.
Cotton is one of the main cash crops in the country. About 40% of the national population – more than 18 million people – depend on the cotton supply chain for their daily subsistence. Cultivation is predominantly carried out by smallholder farmers and is totally dependent on rainfall. The annual cotton production is strongly influenced by the pollution pattern and the price of cotton set by producers in the previous season. Cotton has been cultivated in Tanzania for more than a century and is among the key products that can help the Tanzania to become an industrialized country by 2025.
In 2019, the country validated the diagnosis produced by the Centre of Excellence, public institutions and entities in the cotton sector in Tanzania. The focus of the Beyond Cotton project in the country is to train and equip technicians from local institutions and smallholder farmers so that they also start to produce and sell food, a model that is known as intercropping crops.
Among the priorities pointed out during this technical visit is the increase in the value of cotton by-products, such as oil, which is extracted from the seed. In Tanzania, there was once a tradition of consuming cotton oil, but the product ended up being replaced by other oils, such as palm and sunflower oils. Another priority will be to encourage the sale of food produced in a consortium model to local markets. The WFP office in Tanzania carries out various humanitarian aid activities in the region and providing food from intercropped cultures to refugee camps is a potential opportunity identified during the workshop.
Over the next few months, the Centre of Excellence will identify, with the Brazilian Cooperation Agency, a cooperating Brazilian institution that will work together with the government of Tanzania and the local WFP office to implement the project in the country. At the same time, the Tanzania task force, involving all public actors and organizations, will meet, validate the results of the workshop and prepare for the new field visit, scheduled for 2020.
The cotton culture declined significantly after Kenya adopted structural adjustment programmes imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which resulted in an almost totally open and liberalized regime in the sector and an expressive privatization program. Consequently, there has been a sharp drop in domestic industrial demand for fibre, in addition to a drastic reduction in the budgetary resources available for the promotion of culture and financing of the system. Despite this, the sector was identified as an important future economic factor. According to the country’s Agricultural and Food Authority, cotton production in Kenya can support up to 200,000 farmers, with the potential to benefit eight million people in the areas affected by draught.
In 2019, the Beyond Cotton project team visited the country to share the project’s strategy with potential partners and discuss its insertion in national programmes currently being implemented both by the government and the WFP country office. Since then, WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger has been talking with the local government about the best way to start the project in the country. After discussions at the XII Brazilian Cotton Conference, the government expressed its commitment to support the elaboration of the Diagnosis of the Cotton Sector in the country.