Promoting cotton cultivation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Project description

Title: Promoting cotton cultivation in sub-Saharan Africa
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ); Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
Country: Sub-Saharan Africa
Lead executing agency: African Cotton & Textile Industries Federation (ACITIF)
Overall term: 2009 to 2016


In many African countries, economic growth depends on an efficient agricultural sector, and cotton production can play an important role in this. For various reasons, however, productivity in the African cotton sector is often low and inefficient.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, cotton cultivation often takes place in remote and structurally weak areas, and is carried out by smallholder farmers who are tied to the value chain by way of production contracts. Lack of knowledge regarding sustainable cotton production, lack of access to services, poor integration into international markets, and unfavourable policy frameworks all serve to weaken the contribution of the cotton sector to economic development and poverty reduction in the region.


Cotton cultivation in sub-Saharan Africa has been strengthened for the long term. Living conditions have improved for 680,000 smallholder farmers, in terms of their financial, ecological and health situation. There is greater equality of opportunities for women involved in cotton growing. A demand-side alliance of textile companies has been established encouraging the supply of sustainable cotton verified ‘Cotton made in Africa’ (CmiA). Some 40 per cent of farmers supported by the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) have been CmiA verified.


The project supports about 680,000 smallholder farmers, mainly in remote and structurally weak areas of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. It encourages their integration into an effective cotton sector and provides training courses on sustainable cultivation to help them raise the productivity of their farms and increase their revenues from agriculture. The project has three areas of activity: it enhances knowledge and skills at the producer level, it strengthens rural services, and it promotes coordinated agricultural policies and support strategies.

Cooperation also takes place with the private cotton companies that work with the farmers on a contract basis. This comprises a component of the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI), which is collectively supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG), the Aid by Trade Foundation, Walmart and the Gatsby Foundation.

Under the Initiative, sustainably produced cotton is certified according to the CmiA criteria. On the demand-side, an alliance of textile enterprises established by the Aid by Trade Foundation is integrating the certified cotton into their international value chains. These textile companies pay a license fee to the Foundation in order to use the CmiA label on their products. The revenues from the licences are then reinvested in the project countries, where they help pay for the CmiA verification process, agricultural and business management training, women’s promotion programmes and school projects.

The project sensitises its partners for the particular economic situation of women, and it develops appropriate gender-sensitive tools. It has also organises ‘farmer business schools’ through which it provides courses to strengthen the participants’ entrepreneurship and agricultural management skills.


Farmers supported under COMPACI have raised their productivity by between 10 and 40 per cent, leading to increases in income of between 30 and 60 per cent. More than 740,000 farmers have now gained CmiA certification.

Across the eight countries involved in the project, more than 388,000 farmers have benefited from agricultural training courses. Over 330,000 and 190,000 producers respectively have also benefited from training in the use and storage of pesticides, and in the maintenance of soil fertility. Some 58,000 farmers took part in farmer business schools. Finally, as part of COMPACI, more than 26,000 female farmers have organised themselves into regional women’s associations.


Further information