This two-year project aims to improve the lives of small-scale cotton farmers in two of Kenya’s poorest districts, Kitui and Mwingi.
What is the problem or need the project is addressing?
The cotton sector in Kenya is struggling, with production at a mere 8.2% of national capacity. Most cotton farmers are small-holders with limited land who produce low yields of poor quality cotton fibre. Farmers’ groups are not well organised, the cost of cotton inputs is rising, the seed used is of poor quality, and imports of second-hand clothing into Kenya (along with cheap imports from China and South East Asia) has dampened demand for locally-produced cotton.
The situation is particularly bad in Kitui and Mwingi districts, where the incidence of poverty is extremely high (as much as 76% in Kitui South). Cotton production is one of the few means farmers in these arid and marginalised areas have to earn an income for basic needs such as food, clothing, healthcare, and schooling. However, their earnings from cotton are low since their yields and cotton quality are poor, and they have limited access to markets.
If the problems these small-scale cotton farmers face could be overcome, then there is great opportunity for them to earn a good living. Market opportunities exist for Kenyan producers in the international cotton market, particularly in the fair trade and organic cotton niche markets. In 2006 alone, UK sales of fair trade cotton products soared by almost 4,000 per cent in volume and just over 3,000 per cent in value.
What is the project doing?
This two-year project will enable small-holder farmers in Kitui and Mwingi to increase their income from cotton by helping them improve their production and linking them into a fair trade supply chain through a local ginnery. Guaranteed fair trade sales will mean farmers receive an increased and consistent price for their cotton and are able to improve their families’ standard of living. In total, the lives of 2,500 farmers and their families (12,500 people) will be improved.
The main activities in this project include:
- Strengthening cotton producer groups in Kitui and Mwingi
- Improving linkages between the cotton producer groups and the local ginnery
- Achieving fair trade certification for their cotton
- Increasing production through provision of technical support and advice
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