TRAID has funded PAN Ethiopia and PAN UK since 2012 to improve the livelihoods, health, and environment of cotton farmers by phasing out the use of highly hazardous pesticides and fertilisers on their crops, and managing them naturally.

In 2022/2023, we are committing £145,659 to expand organic and sustainable cotton production to meet growing national and international demand, while ensuring that the health, welfare, environmental and economic arguments for agroecological approaches are front and centre, both in Ethiopia and globally.

Farmer training on managing cotton and food crops without using chemical pesticides

To date, TRAID has committed £732,580 to empower Ethiopian farmers to grow without toxic pesticides. It’s a long-term investment that resulted in major successes and landmarks including: –

Here, PAN Ethiopia’s Director Tadessa Amera, and farmer Menza Maile explain more from the field.

 

The success of the work, the near doubling of synthetic fertilisers costs since 2020, reduced pesticide availability due to Covid disrupting trade, rapidly growing demand, and public interest in how to address global climate emergencies means that there has never been a better time to push for an organic expansion in Ethiopia which prioritises farmers, their families and environment.

In 2022/23, PAN Ethiopia will prepare the project to take advantage of these market opportunities and government commitments including creating an organic cotton belt in the region free and extending this tried and tested model of farmer field training to new zones (administrative districts).

500 new farmers in 9 villages will be recruited alongside work with 50 lead farmers (those with advanced expertise who can then disseminate learning and techniques) to improve the quality and production of organic cotton seed for sale to co-op members.

Internally, the team will also put together a strategic plan for expanding the project from 2024 – 2030 based on key lessons and recommendation from stakeholders. This will also look at how to reduce the challenges of organic certification, especially costs and training.

An important element of this model is crop diversification which means farmers are not reliant on a single crop, but grow food for example alongside cotton. These cash crops provide additional income as well as food security and this year, there will be a focus on strengthening training on the agroecological management of vegetable crops, as well as cotton. In the unpredictable context of climate emergencies already impacting Ethiopia, building in some resilience to future proof farmers as much as possible is essential.

With a decade of successful evidence based work to draw on, this year will also bring the lessons, methodology, field research and impacts together to unequivocally showcase the benefits to secure support for sustainable approaches to growing cotton and other crops.

This will include expanding, improving and refining training materials, agronomic advice for farmers, and guidance for FFS farmers and facilitators including new chapters in the Cotton Guidance Manual, and tailored training for development agents (pivotal governmental agricultural actors responsible for disseminating knowledge and guidance to farmers to transform Ethiopia’s agrarian economy), farmer co-operatives and women’s enterprises.

The successes of the last decade are rooted in its grassroots approach which focusses on farmers ownership over their sustainability journey, gradually reducing and for most, completely eliminating pesticide use, building and exchanging agroecological expertise with support from PAN Ethiopia and gaining the health, economic, and environmental benefits of growing cotton  sustainability.  It is then farmers themselves who become the most important advocates for the expansion of agroecological methods in their communities and beyond.

Right now, demand for organic cotton is rocketing with an expected 48% growth for organic cotton production forecast for 2021/22 (Source. Textile Exchange Organic Cotton Market Report 2021). This is an extremely exciting time for the organic cotton farmers and partners we support and invest in. The possibility of significantly reduced toxic chemical use, healthier wealthier farmers and more sustainably grown cotton than every before has never felt more possible. This is groundbreaking work by farmers, for farmers, that is re-building agroecological knowledge and reaping rewards.