Organic Cotton for Employment, Growth and Environment?

Project summary

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.

Outputs

Midterm report 2019:

Our results show that organic and other more sustainable ways of cotton production can also increase the income of smallholder farmers.

In spite of lower yields in organic farming, switching to organic farming does not compromise food security and even improves the quality of the diet of smallholder farmers in Benin.

While we could neither find a positive nor a negative effect of switching to organic farming on physical welfare measures, we find that switching to organic farming makes smallholder farmers in Benin happier and more satisfied with several aspects of their life.

Conventional cotton farmers in Benin can substantially reduce health hazards of synthetic pesticides by wearing sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) while handling and spraying synthetic pesticides.

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

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