OBEBAP, working with PAN UK, has established the organic cotton sector in Benin, West Africa with funding from TRAID since 2009. Until 2021, TRAID was the project’s only investor and the impacts of an organic approach on small-holder farmers have been extraordinary. The project’s success alongside growing national and international demand for organic cotton has now attracted more investment to the work to accelerate the pace of organic expansion so more farmers, their families, environment and ecology can benefit.
In 2022, TRAID’s funding will directly benefit 9,000 cotton farmers who will be supported to scale up organic production to meet the demand for economies of scale. To achieve this, OBEPAB will focus on strengthening supply chain linkages, building organisational and farmer capacity through training, and showcasing Benin’s high quality organic cotton and good practice is essential. As ever, the social, environmental and economic benefits to these small-holder farmers are at the centre of this agroecological model.
The project aims for more than 6,000 farmers to secure organic certification, and more than 1,000 for soya, an increasingly important rotation crop. However, a perennial issue is the challenging requirements of organic certification which is increasingly complex and costly. While OBEPAB farmers gain significant benefits from going organic, including a 20% premium, this year will also provide more technical support from organisations like Cotton Made in Africa, piloting a revolving fund (for soya) to spread the financial burden, and taking advantage of the certification of some ginneries (where cotton fibre is separated from seed) as organic.
Increasing women farmer’s participation has been integral to the project for over a decade, and to date, 30% of organic cotton growers are women due to OBEPAB’d dedicated commitment to raising awareness of gender in farming communities, identifying and overcoming obstacles women face such as land ownership, and addressing the lack of education for girls. This piece of funding will continue to run established literacy and numeracy classes for around 400 women farmers who typically miss out on formal education. These classes have been really popular and significantly improved record keeping helping women to manage their finances and run small businesses more effectively.
Finally, the successes of organic cotton in Benin will be used to secure relationships with ethical companies in cotton supply chains, and to attracting investment which in turn reinforces support for organic cotton expansion from national government. This will see the creation of new resources from training to marketing materials to shine a spotlight on the incredible social, environmental, and economic impacts of Benin’s organic cotton farmers.