Organic Cotton for Employment, Growth and Environment?

Start date
January 1, 2015
End date
December 31, 2019
Project code
Total grant
Contact person
Arne Henningsen

We will assess the potential of organic cotton production to improve the livelihoods of millions of poor households in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). These households depend on production, trading, or processing of cotton but are at risk of losing their main source of livelihood, since most current cotton production systems are in many respects not sustainable. Particularly in East Africa, cotton value chains experience low and even declining international competitiveness due to low margins and farmers’ limited access to credit and yield-increasing agrochemicals, while in West Africa the massive use of pesticides and agrochemicals results in severe environmental and health problems. Organic cotton production can solve both problems, as it strictly limits the use of agrochemicals and could increase incomes through access to premium prices. However, no in-depth and comparative evaluation of organic and conventional cotton farming has been conducted in SSA. We will develop and apply an interdisciplinary framework for assessing the various aspects of sustainability of different existing and innovative ways of cotton production in SSA, e.g. pesticide residues, soil fertility, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic and social conditions along the value chains. This research will generate new knowledge that will foster green growth, poverty reduction, and job creation by increasing the sustainability of the livelihood of millions of poor households in SSA.


Midterm report 2017:

We have collected experimental data on yields, environmental impacts and profitability of different cotton production methods and the results are analysed in several working papers in preparation for publication in scientific journals. Some of the findings have been presented and discussed at scientific conferences, workshops and meetings.

We have also collected survey data from cotton producing households and information about the cotton value chains in Benin and Tanzania. The survey data are currently being analysed and the value chain information have already resulted in several working papers in preparation.
Methodologically, we are working on developing an approach for an overall interdisciplinary assessment of sustainability and on developing methodologies for analysing the competitiveness of value chains using the Policy Analysis Matrix.

Much of this work is being carried out by the 4 PhD students in the projects under joint supervision by the senior project partners.