For over a decade our incredible charity project partners PAN Ethiopia and PAN UK have been working hard to empower small holding farmers in Ethiopia’s Southern Rift Valley to grow pesticide-free cotton. With the support of Traid’s funding, the PAN teams have now trained 8,570 farmers in 21 villages across three districts to grow cotton without pesticides and in 2017 we helped to establish the first ever organic cotton certifications in Ethiopia! We are delighted to share with you insights from the people working on the ground to expand Ethiopia’s cotton market:  

Bazezew Gimariam PAN Ethiopia’s Cotton Project Co-ordinator.

Meet Bazezew Gimariam PAN Ethiopia’s Cotton Project Co-ordinator, who works in the Arba Minch district where the farmers and Farmer Field Schools are based. Bazezew is a long-standing member of the Arba Minch team with a huge amount of expertise on Farmer Field School systems, and evidence-based practice to support and expand the farmers’ technical knowledge.  

“I have worked on the cotton project for more than ten years. This project is important as it is the only project working on pesticide impacts on the environment and human health. It provides agroecological solutions and has helped set up the first certified organic cotton farmers’ co-operative in the country. We have also shown farmers how to diversify their income and women are setting up cotton spinning associations. We are working to develop the same techniques so that they can be applied to vegetable farming and I hope to see our country free of highly hazardous pesticides in the next ten years.” 

Ewentu Tsegaye, a local agronomist and the Head of Kolla Shelle kebele’s Agriculture Office.

Meet Mr Ewentu Tsegaye, a local agronomist and the Head of Kolla Shelle kebele’s Agriculture Office; a small administrative unit in Ethiopia’s Agriculture Office that coordinates the Department of Agriculture’s support for farmers in the village of Kolla Shelle. For over 40 years Mr Tsegaye has worked in Ethiopia’s Arba Minch district to support local farmers and began working with the PAN teams in 2015.  

“Due to my lack of knowledge I used to encourage farmers to use chemical sprays.” says Mr Ewentu Tsegaye. However, since working with the PAN teams Mr Tsegaye shared that, “In the first place, the biggest benefit we gained from working with PAN Ethiopia was to stop encouraging farmers to spray chemicals. The second benefit is that PAN Ethiopia helped us to gain the knowledge to identify which insects are friends of farmers (beneficial insects) and which insects are enemies of farmers.”   
Between 2015-2021, 745 farmers in Kolla Shelle were trained at the Farmer Field School to grow cotton without pesticides and learn the benefits of using natural pest management methods to protect their crops. “One of the most important contributions from PAN Ethiopia is that they have equipped us with knowledge and made all of us researchers, both the farmers as well as skilled employees.”, says Mr Tsegaye.   

Habtamel Esatu a member of the PAN Ethiopia Cotton Team in Arba Minch

Meet Habtamel Esatu a member of the PAN Ethiopia Cotton Team in Arba Minch. 

“I have worked on the project for just over a year and I am working hard to advance my skills and my knowledge in order to improve my family’s life. There are many direct and indirect beneficiaries of the project as we deliver new technology and develop healthier agronomic practices with the local cotton farmers. Extra income is also generated through setting up the cotton cooperatives and the women’s cotton spinning groups. I would love to see the cotton farmers producing even more high-quality cotton in the next years with all farmers converting from conventional to organic farming methods.”  

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 and support our projects by donating your clothes.