This morning, the TRAID team had an incredibly motivational and inspiring talk from Tadesse Amera, Director of PAN Ethiopia.

Tadesse is leading a project funded by TRAID and in partnership with PAN UK, to support farmers to reduce pesticide use, with many eventually converting to 100% organic cotton production. The project began in 2013 with 90 farmers, and is flourishing today with 2,000+ farmers, including many women.

Pan Ethiopia, Pan UK and the TRAID Team
Pan Ethiopia, Pan UK and the TRAID Team

All farmers are seeing significantly increased yields of cotton and incomes compared to when they were farming conventionally using dangerous and expensive pesticides. When we say increased incomes, we mean that rather than selling cotton at $0.43 per kilo (10 Ethiopian BIR), they are commanding $1.50 per kilo (33 Ethiopian BIR) for grade A quality organic cotton.

Some fascinating points and aspects of the projects Tadesse shared with us were:

  • That in the local language, the word for ‘pesticide’ doesn’t mean poison, but ‘medicine’ – which maintains the idea that pesticides are safe resulting in high levels of poisoning amongst conventional farmers.
  • That part of the success of the project is that local and national government are embracing the work. A real milestone.
  • That participation of women farmers is increasing.
  • That women are forming their own groups to make traditional hand spun textiles from the very high grade cotton produced.
  • As part of the project set up, Ethiopian farmers met with farmers from an earlier TRAID funded project to support farmers to grow organic in Benin. They learned about the successful use of food spray in Benin and have benefited from the learning which took place in this project. Bottom up farmer-to-farmer learning and knowledge production has also encouraged more farmers to take the leap from growing conventionally, to growing pesticide free cotton.
  • That farmers are now not only benefiting from the sale of lint cotton, but also from the sale and use of organic cotton seeds.
  • That next steps and aspirations are to show that organic cotton farming methods can work on large farms as well as small-scale plots. Watch this space.

Find out more about the project here