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PAN Germany Project

Cotton Connection

Farmers want to escape from toxic cotton production!

We support the development of business partnerships.

Pesticides - A key problem in cotton production

Cotton is often seen as a 'natural' product, compared with synthetic fibres. But did you know that conventional cotton production accounts for almost one quarter of global insecticide use? In most cases, the pesticides used in cotton are highly hazardous. Their widespread use is linked to serious negative effects, both on the health of farmers and farm workers, mostly in developing countries, and for the environment.

PAN Germany advocates sustainable alternatives

For more than 15 years PAN Germany has been committed to improve the situation of millions of people affected by pesticides world-wide and awareness-raising is a constant component of our cotton project work. But it's not only about pointing out problems. We want practical solutions. The best option is organic production. Long lasting efforts within the international PAN network to promote safer alternatives in pest management are now bearing fruit: the market for organic cotton is growing rapidly now.

However, we don't want to rest on our laurels. Alexandra Perschau, PAN Germany's cotton expert, states: "Our project partners in Africa and other actors in the global organic cotton movement want to take further steps to explore new income sources and thereby reduce farmers' dependency on cotton. The aim is to establish long-term environmentally friendly and economically viable organic production. We're prepared to meet this challenge."

Our partners on the ground

In the West African country Benin, PAN Germany has cooperated since the early 1990s with OBEPAB, the organisation for the promotion of organic agriculture in Benin. This non-governmental organisation has successfully promoted organic cotton production since 1996.

The project started with 17 farmers on an area of 10 hectares. Today OBEPAB is active in six districts of Benin and gives advice to around 2,000 farmers. The project is a major success, especially for women, who make up almost 50% of the trained farmers. Organic cotton production directly contributes to improved family health and strengthens the role of women, who are often denied access to their own income in conventional production.

Farmers active in the project want to market other agricultural goods. Cashew nuts seem to be especially appropriate since the maintenance of the bushes, which are planted at the field borders as erosion control, as well as harvesting the nuts are not very labour-intensive and therefore do not compete with labour needs in cotton production.

In Senegal, PAN's partner organisation Enda Pronat has been promoting organic cotton production since 1994, ranking amongst the pioneers of the movement. In the region around Koussanar in the eastern part of Senegal, this international development organisation is supporting the farmers' association Yakaar Niani Wulli, which currently includes 650 cotton farmers, among others.

Special emphasis of the Koussanar project is to support the farmers' association in developing more products suitable for sale and in expanding the value chain of products within their own country. For example, Enda Pronat managed to introduce the locally much sought-after cereal variety 'fonio' into the organic crop rotation pattern. Enda Pronat and the farmers' association have identified other products suitable for export: dried Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), which is the ingredient of Senegal's national drink 'bissap', might find its way to Europe. And the same is true for sesame, an easy to handle crop within the rotation system.

Next steps

With our support, project partners from Senegal and Benin aim to build new, reliable business relationships for their farmers at BioFach 2009, the world-organic trade fair.

PAN Germany will organise partners' presentation at this exhibition and build bridges with suitable German and European companies, which are willing to get involved in long-term, reliable and fair business relationships aiming to improve the livelihoods of cotton farmers. Further visits to trade fairs and individual dialogues with businesses will take place over the next two years in Germany, the UK, France and Italy. Alexandra Perschau from PAN Germany: "A successful exhibition presence is an important step to initiate good business relationships. But we also want to discuss with other stakeholders about corner stones of sustainable trade models."

For further information on our joint project entitled "Fibre, Food and Beauty for poverty reduction" please click here. Or just ask us.

Button Publikationen

Fibre, Food and Beauty for Poverty Reduction – Make it move!

Fibre, Food and Beauty for Poverty Reduction – Make it move! A compendium on lessons learned in a three year project on how to reduce dependency on cotton and fight poverty.
englishDownload English (pdf-file, 978 kb)
frenchDownload French (pdf-file, 986 kb)

Can organic cotton feed Africa? A short guide to the issues

Cover Can Organic feed Africa englishDownload English
frenchDownload French

Food crops grown by organic cotton farmers in West Africa

Logo Fibre, Food and Beauty The following fact sheets on our topic can be downloaded:

Hibiscus, cashew and cotton - what’s the common thread?

English (502 kb), Italian (518 kb)

Fonio English (3 MB), Italian (3,1 MB)

Bissap English (2,7 MB,) Italian (2,7 MB)

Sesame English (2,5 MB), Italian (2,5 MB)

Cashew English (1,1 MB), Italian (1,1 MB)

Welcome to our Biofach Photo-gallery
PAN Germany and project partners presented a stall at the Organic Africa Pavilion at the BioFach fair in 2009. Additionally partners contributed to a seminar in the Fair congress' textile forum. Here are some impressions.
A female farmer with child in Benin

Health damage caused by pesticides: A female farmer in Benin used a cotton pesticide to treat her daughter against head lice. This lead to permanent damage of the girl's eyes.

Workshop 2008

Alexandra Perschau (2nd from right) moderates a panel discussion on corner stones of sustainable trade models for organic cotton farmers at a workshop held in September 2008.

Davo Vodouhe, director of OBEPAB

Davo Vodouhe, agriculture expert and director of OBEPAB, imparting knowledge on methodologies which contribute to a good yield of healthy crops.

She realised converting to organic cotton

(Benin) When Evelyne Atekokale grew conventional cotton she suffered miscarriages caused by pesticides. She realised converting to organic was the way to finally stop her exposure to toxic substances. Today she is a proud mother.

The village of Mangassa, Benin, now is entirely organic

The village of Mangassa, Benin, now is entirely organic.

discuss changes and challenges of organic farming

Enda Pronat staff and farmers discuss changes and challenges of organic farming.

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