Latest Update August 2015: This project is really getting into its stride. Farmers who are growing organically are harvesting around a quarter of a tonne more per hectare of cotton than their farmer neighbours who are growing non-organically. Plus, because they are selling their crop co-cooperatively, they are also achieving a higher price per tonne.

In Ethiopia’s Rift Valley, cotton is grown extensively with farmers heavily dependent on using chemical pesticides to control pests. Uncontrolled pesticide use is damaging health and agricultural land, reducing profits and yields, with many farmers turning to alternative crops to make a living.

TRAID is funding PAN UK and local partner PAN Ethiopia to work with 2300 farmers in three districts in the Awash River basin of the Rift Valley to grow cotton more sustainably using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques. As the project progresses, PAN aims for 500 farmers to choose to take the next step to growing cotton completely organically and securing the organic premium for their harvest.

IPM is a sustainable, effective and environmentally sensitive way to reduce pesticide use by introducing a range of techniques to manage pests such as food sprays to attract beneficial insects – so called ‘farmers’ friends’- to control pests. Food sprays have already been successfully used in Benin where organic farmers using the spray achieved incomes 30% higher than those relying on synthetic pesticides.

Farmers and plantation workers will receive on-farm education in IPM and organic farming methods learning from field observation and experiments. For example, differentiating beneficial insects from pests and how food sprays attract insects which control pests.

The project aims for farmers to see an increase in income due to higher yields and lower costs, with on-going health improvements by reducing their exposure to hazardous pesticides. More widely, there will be improvements in the health of their families numbering at least 13,000 women, children and men, as well as benefits to the local population of 360,000 people who will benefit from a less polluted environment and reduced exposure to pesticides.

Improved environmental stewardship is urgent with two vital lakes – Lake Abaya and Lake Chamo – currently suffering severe pollution from pesticide run off and aerial spraying on cotton plantations.