Initiative to boost cotton farmers

Cotton farmers in Tanzania are expected to benefit from a programme aimed to boost production and productivity of the crop in the country.

The second phase of Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) Programme was launched in Arusha recently, at a function officiated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Yamungu Kayandabila.

There are more than 500,000 cotton farmers in Tanzania, but most of them depend on subsistence small-holder farming. Smallholder farmers own between 0.5 acres to 10 acres or an average of 1.5 acres. These depend on hand-hoe and rely on seasonal rainfall.

At the conference, the COMPACI Programme Director, Mr Peltzer said the second phase of Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) programme aimed to strengthen the capacity of approximately 650,000 targeted African cotton farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

COMPACI, according to the director, will strengthen Tanzanian cotton farmers by increasing cotton productivity and its quality through the introduction and intensification of good agriculture practices as well as diversifying crop production and promoting complementary cash crops.

"Programme implementation is based on close co-operation with experienced private sector companies. These partners are private ginning companies implementing out-grower schemes as well as the processing and marketing of cotton.

"They have an existing infrastructure in place and will provide capital, know-how, seeds, inputs and credit for the contracted farmers. Local partners are guaranteed by the firms that all their crops would be bought," he said.

The launching of Phase Two of Cotton made in Africa project follows the success of pilot project (2005-2009) that encouraged financers to provide funds over a period of four years, to extend the pilot project within the framework of the COMPACI to more than a quarter of a million farmers and various activities in six African countries from the year 2009.

In 2002, almost 10 per cent of the world's cotton production was grown in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA), the world's fifth largest cotton exporter after the US, India, Australia and Brazil. Cotton production in SSA differs when compared to other countries where cotton is grown in monocultures on large plantations that are often irrigated and mainly harvested with machines.

In Africa, cotton is almost exclusively grown and harvested by hand by the farmers (smallholders), grown on small lots and in rotation with staple foods, such as grain, maize and peanuts, within the context of very diversified production system.

Now, COMPACI'S aim in Tanzania and other African countries is to enable smallholder families to enhance productivity of cotton production, thus improving their income and their living conditions.

"The programme will facilitate market access of cotton farmers by helping them brand their cotton according to quality labels (such as CmiA or organic) and by creating a direct link to textile retailers," said Mr Peltzer.

COMPACI Phase Two is built on the experiences gained during Phase I, in which the programme was implemented with seven partners in six African countries (Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Benin, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast).

In Phase II the collaboration has been expanded to 16 partners in nine countries, of which four are from Tanzania; Alliance, Birchand, Biosustain and NGS.

COMPACI believes that so far, however, only limited use has been made of the potential of the cotton sector for poverty reduction and commercial development.

Whereas for five to 10 per cent of farmers practising rain-fed agriculture level of production is at 1,500 kg seed cotton per hectare and more, productivity of the broad majority of farmers continue to be around 500-600 kg seed cotton per hectare.

The Acting Director General of the Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB), Gabriel Mwalo said the collaboration with other stakeholders in the cotton industry is vital for sustainable growth, while the board would continue to educate farmers about the importance of modern cotton production.

He cited an example of a farmer who owns 100 acres who cannot cultivate the whole piece or even access loans from financial institutions. 

"Now, COMPACI or cotton factory will empower such kind of a farmer through contracts to enable him or her to cultivate the whole piece of his land by giving him or her agricultural implements and later buy the products," he said.

Mr Kayandabila said that the government was aware that low investment, inadequate extension services due to the limited number of agriculture experts and value addition are the major setback that hindered the growth of cotton in most of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The cotton sub-sector is one of the major source of employment and income in Tanzania, employing about 500,000 rural households while contributing heavily to the National Gross Domestic product," he said.

Cotton farming in Tanzania is mainly divided into two general zones: The western cotton zone of Shinyanga, Mwanza, Tabora, Mara, Singida, Kagera and Kigoma regions, accounting for over 90 per cent of production and the eastern cotton zone of Morogoro, Coast, Tanga, Iringa, Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions.

Planting begins in December for the unimodal areas of the western part of the country, with harvesting in late June and marketing beginning in August. Planting begins between February and March in the eastern portion of the country, with harvesting in early August to late October.
Source: Daily News, reported from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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