- Cotton growers, scientists and textile businesspeople in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad have been supported by the African Development Fund (ADF) with a loan of US$ 51.9 million. Regional scientific cooperation and the sharing of genetic material is emphasised in the project.
While ADF contributes 89 percent of the funds, the four implementing countries and beneficiaries foot the rest of the five-year project, which starts in June 2007. In a statement released after the approval was done yesterday, ADF said the money is earmarked for multi-national projects in the West African countries.
The project, which covers all of Africa's traditional seed cotton production areas, is to secure documentation of genetic variation among cultivated cotton in West and Central Africa. Its main activities will include setting up of a regional framework for scientific cooperation, sharing of genetic material by four agricultural research institutions, training of operators and technicians in the different cotton sector trades at the regional training centre.
According to the ADB, the project will also "consolidate the negotiation skills of African Regional Association of Cotton Farmers." Finally, it indirectly aims to contribute to rural poverty reduction and raise the incomes of sector stakeholders by ensuring sustainable productivity improvement in the cotton sub-sector.
Also entailed in the project is the regional Competitiveness Improvement Agenda, which aims to protect and raise the incomes of cotton farmers. The project therefore was said to help protect the incomes of more than 900,000 farmers and benefit a population of close to 10 million people in the four countries.
"At full operation, the project will generate an extra 1.84 million tons of cotton, 654,000 tons of maize, 240,500 tons of sorghum and 192,000 tons of millet. It will have a positive effect on the environment through the adoption of good farming practices," the ADF statement read.
Burkina Faso is Africa's largest producer of cotton, which derives 60 percent of its revenue from cotton. But also in Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad, cotton is the major cash earner for the rural population, which nevertheless is stuck in poverty due to low productivity and even lower world market prices.
While the four countries are leading a WTO lobbying effort to improve the world market price for cotton by scrapping US subsidies, the ADF-funded project is to contribute to higher yields and productivity.
The project was said to coincide with the introduction of transgenic cotton to the West African market. This is expected to increase production and protect the crop from insects but some organisations said genetically modified organisms could pose danger to the environment and the health of human beings. They therefore said this would not be a solution to Africa's problems - despite optimistic outlooks presented by scientists and government officials.
It is expected that the new technology would increase cotton production by 30 percent per hectare as well as reduce the use of costly insecticides. Burkina Faso launched its first trials of genetically-modified Bt cotton already three years ago.
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