Action plan was jointly built during technical visit by experts from the WFP Brazil Centre of Excellence against Hunger
The Beyond Cotton project in Tanzania went one step further with the technical visit by experts from the WFP (World Food Programme) Centre of Excellence against Hunger in Brazil and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC/MRE). The mission to the Mwanza region in the north of the country took the form of a workshop and was aimed at validating the diagnosis produced by the Centre of Excellence, public institutions and cotton sector entities in Tanzania and creating a list of priorities. The focus of the project, which is estimated at about $ 650,000, is to train and equip technicians from counterpart institutions and small cotton farmers so that they can also produce and sell food, a model known as intercropping.
Among the priorities pointed out during the technical visit is an increase in the value of cotton by-products, such as oil, which is extracted from cottonseed. Tanzania already had a tradition of consuming cottonseed oil, but the product was eventually replaced by other oils such as palm and sunflower. Another priority will be to promote the outflow of the intercropping food production to local markets. The WFP Tanzania office conducts various humanitarian activities in the region and local farmers could potentially supply those camps with intercropped foods. In addition to that, the project has envisioned contributions to the development of a school feeding programme, which could also be a potential market for those farmers.
In addition to meetings with key partners such as the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), ministries of agriculture, industry and trade, foreign affairs and industry organizations such as local government and the Tanzania Cotton Board, the mission agenda also featured field visits. The team visited a TARI research centre, which is equipped with cotton processing units. There were also visits to farmers who are already working in the area surrounding the centre and who will benefit from the project. The visit also received an important report from farmers about the importance of the female workforce in this process. “Tanzanian technicians themselves were surprised by the farmers’ report that not only decision-making, but most of the field activities were done by women,” said Joelcio Carvalho, Project Officer at the Centre of Excellence against Hunger.
Over the coming months, the Centre of Excellence and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency will identify a cooperating Brazilian institution that will work with the Tanzanian government and the local WFP office to make the project viable in the country. At the same time, the Tanzania task force, involving all public actors and industry organisations, will meet, validate workshop results and prepare for the new field visit scheduled for February 2020.
Cotton and its role in local economies
Cotton is one of the most important agricultural products in the world and its production is significant for the generation of employment and income, thus contributing to the food security of family farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is also an alternative for overcoming rural poverty. Around 350 million people throughout the world carry out economic activities related to cotton, which is one of the 20 most important commodities in the world market in terms of its value.
However, for many smallholder farmers who produce cotton, the main challenge is to find stable markets for cotton by-products and associated food, unlike cotton fibre, for which the market is already defined and secured.
The Beyond Cotton project supports smallholder farmers and their families, as well as public institutions in Benin, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania, in a joint initiative of the Brazilian government, represented by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC/MRE) and the World Food Programme, through its Country Offices and its Centre of Excellence against Hunger.
The project connects cotton by-products, such as oil and cottonseed meal, and intercropped crops such as corn, sorghum and beans, to stable markets, including school feeding programmes. The initiative contributes to income generation for family farmers and increased food and nutrition security in rural areas.
The profit generated by the commercialization of cotton is the basis that guarantees the farmer’s livelihood, but it is not enough to ensure improvements in the families’ lifestyle. Therefore, adding value to cotton by-products and improved food outlets associated with cotton production are key to increasing incomes and improving household food and nutritional security.