Cooperation between Brazil and Africa promotes the development of the cotton industry

Dec 22, 2016

Cotton 4 + Togo Project brings together Brazilian and African experts to optimize production and share experiences. Photo: Fabiano José Perina / Embrapa

Benin is a West African country with a population of approximately 9 million people and a GDP of $ 8.3 million. In order to generate around 10% of the country's GDP, the majority of the population works in the production of cotton in rural areas, a strategic product for the region.

Other African countries have a similar situation to that of Benin, such as Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali. "More than 10 million people in the region depend directly on cotton production, and millions more are indirectly affected by the problems this sector is facing, which is going through many national and international challenges," says the South- South Cooperation Officer of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Brazil, Daniel Furst.

Brazil, a world leader in direct cotton sowing technology, launched a South-South Cooperation project in 2009 with these four African countries, in order to optimize the technological development of cotton production in Africa and empower farmers and community leaders.

The project is the result of an alliance between the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), linked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), the governments of the four African countries - a group known as Cotton-4 - and UNDP.

Brazil presented to Africa a model of cooperation for a project that could be designed in conjunction with the other countries. "The Brazilian cooperation model is different, it is conceived together with the partner countries," says the administrative and financial officer of the Cotton-4 project, Boubacar Diombana.

In addition to the exchange of experiences, the project carried out technological modernization of the cotton production in Africa.

The transfer of technology also involved a series of studies in other areas, such as social and cultural. "How to transfer technology in a country with a completely different culture, with different dialects and local languages? There was a concern for the communities, to be able to generate something that would improve their working conditions and quality of life", says the coordinator of the project for Embrapa, José Geraldo Di Stefano.

The project has four pillars of sustainability: socio-cultural, economic, technological and environmental. The transfer of technology is essential to provide a better quality of life for local producers and farmers, mainly to reduce the time they remain in the field. "In Summer temperatures reach 150°F, this is where technology plays a determining role for people to improve their conditions," he added.

The incorporation of technology aims at genetic improvement, integrated pest management and planting on vegetation cover. These techniques seek to reduce impacts on the environment while contributing to poverty reduction and local human development.

The first phase of the project was completed in 2013. Exceptionally, two tons of cotton per hectare were produced in Mali that year and the maximum yield reached six tons. The average production per hectare is 800 kilos to one ton.

Other results of the project include the revitalization of the Sotuba Experimental Station in Mali, the dissemination of scientific production with a focus on the socio-economic growth of communities, the access of small farmers to techniques that strengthen the production chain of cotton and the development of good agricultural practices and techniques. In total, 21 trainings were carried out for 425 technicians.

The second phase of the initiative included Togo as a cooperation partner, conforming the Cotton 4 + Togo, and began its implementation in 2014. At this stage, the active participation of all member countries is expected, especially to share the results and experiences of the first phase of the project. "We have made great progress working in a participatory and horizontal way with the countries and building this learning together during the process of knowledge transfer," says Nelci Perez Caixeta, Project Coordinator for Africa, Asia and Oceania from ABC.

Due to the success of the Cotton-4 initiative, two other cooperation projects between Brazil and Africa in the cotton industry have been launched. One is a regional project to strengthen the cotton sector in the Shire-Zambezi low-lying basins, including Malawi and Mozambique; and another one with Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania as partners.

In 2016, the initiative received the second prize in the South-South Cooperation (SSC) for Sustainable Development Award “S3 Award”, organized by UNDP. Brazil's cooperation project was one of the four winners of the contest, in which 33 projects from 19 Latin American countries participated. The award aimed to show and recognize best practices in SSC from the region in order to promote more and better initiatives.

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