To celebrate International Women’s Day, we are featuring the incredible women supported by our charity partners PAN UK and PAN Ethiopia, that work to transform Ethiopia’s cotton production by phasing out and eliminating harmful pesticides from cotton crops.

Now ten years since the project began, the PAN UK and PAN Ethiopia teams have developed close working relationships with female small holding Ethiopian farmers and women from the local communities to provide opportunities for them to thrive across the cotton supply chain. We are delighted to share their stories with you. 

Mrs Tadelech Kuleno, a farmer from Kola Mulato, Ethiopia.

Meet Mrs Tadelech Kuleno, a farmer from Kola Mulato, whose household grows cotton and vegetables. The Kola Mulato village in Merab Abaya district in Ethiopia has been involved with the project since 2015 and the female farmer participation encouraged by PAN UK and PAN Ethiopia in this area has been tremendously successful as now on average 25% of the farmers on the project trained are women. 

Mrs Kuleno is known as a Lead farmer and shares her expertise of working with natural integrated pesticide management (IPM) to support her fellow ‘Follower’ farmers to learn the ropes of how to work with natural resources and reduce the amount of pesticides they used on their crops. 

When asked about her experience committing half a day per week across 3-4 months to train to work with natural farming methods at the Farmers Field School sessions Mrs Kuleno shared that, “We learn how to make food spray here which encourages beneficial insects into our crops which eat the pests. This food spray can be made from ingredients that we already have at home and that are cheap and easy to buy. Pesticides are very expensive and very dangerous…The knowledge we learn here about the health impacts of pesticides helps us to protect our children. We are happy to come to training on a Saturday as the training approach is very practical.” 

A group of women from the Ugayo Women’s Cotton Spinning Association, holding a textile.

Beyond the farming fields our charity partners work closely with the local communities to empower women to set up their own income-generating micro businesses within the cotton supply chain. Businesses such as cotton seed cleaning and hand cotton spinning enterprises have provided local women the opportunity to grow their business skills, confidence and gain their own stream of income to support themselves and their families. Now, ten years since the project began, six cotton hand spinning associations and two seed cleaning enterprises have been established with 313 members!

The Ugayo Women’s Cotton Spinning Association is one of these fantastic enterprises, where women continue the important traditional craft of transforming harvested and cleaned cotton fibres into yarn. Once the yarn is balled it is then subcontracted and sent to weavers to make the cotton material that we all recognise. Formal associations like The Ugayo Women’s Cotton Spinning Association operate as an important social and economic function that brings women together and increases the production volume and sales of Ethiopian cotton. Below are images of some of the female members of The Ugayo Women’s Cotton Spinning Association.

Genet Getachew, holding balled cotton.
Obite Ongo, hand spinning cotton into yarn.

We are proud to continue to support and fund the fantastic work of PAN UK and PAN Ethiopia’s projects. In our latest round of funding, we have committed £262,511 across two years (2023-2025) to expand Ethiopia’s pesticide-free cotton market. Find out more about the project here