Since 2009, TRAID has funded the work of OBEPAB and PAN UK to establish the organic cotton sector in Benin, West Africa. In 2023, we have committed £169,112 of funding to this project to improve incomes, health and soil quality for thousands of organic cotton farmers in Benin by building capacity, strengthening supply chain linkages, and showcasing Benin’s high quality organic cotton production.
Until 2021, TRAID was the main investor of this project and to date has invested £1,105,241. The results for Benin’s small holdings cotton farmer thus far have been extraordinary. Since the project began:
- 4,475 farmers have obtained organic cotton farming certifications.
- Female farmer inclusion has grown 30% higher compared to the conventional cotton sector.
- Organic cotton farmers have earned more than triple the net income of conventional farmers.
Our 2023 funding will support 9,000 organic cotton farmers to manage crops organically and expand Benin’s organic cotton production. Farmers will learn how to farm organic cotton and secure organic cotton certifications through the Farmer Field School model.
The Farmer Field School is a hands on learning programme where groups of farmers learn how grow crops organically and end using dangerous pesticides on their crops. Some of the content taught includes learning how to; recognise the difference between beneficial insects and harmful pests; identify diseases on crops; and maintain and improve crop health through natural farming such as applying food spray.
Since the project began 60 organic cooperatives have formed, empowering farmers across Benin to move towards an organic future. Under these 60 organic cooperatives, farmers will be supported to meet and maintain certification criteria so that over 8,000 farmers can secure organic cotton certification. Farmers who transition to growing organic cotton experience significant benefits which includes increasing farmers’ profit, as organic crops are sold with a 20% premium.
OBEPAB has made great developments to enroll more farmers into the Farmer Field School by doubling the number of support staff available. The additional support staff will work to increase the number of farmers achieving organic cotton certifications and allow new content to be taught at the Farmer Field School.
At the Farmers Field School, farmers will learn about the importance of crop diversification to build resilience against the impacts of climate change and how it can create positive outcomes for farmers. Farmers can increase their harvest results and wealth by growing a range of crops for food, ensuring food security, and crops to be sold in small businesses such as making Shea butter from growing Shea nuts. Reducing single crop dependency is vital to building resilience against the impacts of climate change as farmers can continue to make a living even if one crop fails.
From safer working conditions, improving livelihoods and building resilience against the impacts of climate change, by empowering farmers to move towards an organic future, Benin’s small holdings farmers can harness the positive results from the management and expansion of organic cotton farming.