Mali is one of Africa’s biggest producers of raw cotton, supporting the livelihoods of up to 4 million people. Much of the rural (and about 25% of the total population) depend on cotton cultivation to make a living. Over the last decade, Mali has seen a rapid expansion in organic cotton farming leading to lower costs and reduced health problems for farmers. However, it is hard for farmers to get organic pesticides to protect their crops and the majority mix their own solutions using wild plants. This over-harvesting is placing pressure on wild plants and undermining the positive environmental impacts of organic farming in Mali.

TRAID is funding* the Foundation and Friends of RBG Kew, and local partners, to address this problem by equipping organic cotton farmers in Southern Mali with the knowledge and skills needed to grow their sustainable own supplies of pesticide plants.

The project will work with around 33,000 people in 27 organic farming co-operatives training farmers to collect, store, germinate and propagate seeds from wild plants. About 30% of these farmers are women. Villages will create areas to grow plants and establish nurseries to mass produce seedlings and demonstrate sustainable farming techniques.

The project will also research the most effective preparations for eco-friendly pesticides and establish regional manufacturing units to prepare and produce them. By supporting organic cotton farmers in Mali to cultivate pesticides sustainably, this project will ensure that the organic cotton market will continue to grow with positive impacts on soil quality, ecosystem biodiversity and human health.

*TRAID committed 60,000 to this project in 2013 for one year, and a further £100,049 in 2014.