IVOIRE COTON is a cotton company that supports the development of small-scale cotton farms in Côte d’Ivoire. The impacts of such assistance can often improve living conditions more widely throughout the region. The head of the company’s Studies and Projects Division, Vassiriki Kone, offers an insight into its work with CmiA in the following interview, where he discusses successful projects and what the future may hold.
You have been partnering with Cotton made in Africa for many years. Why did you choose to join forces with the initiative, and how has the partnership developed over the years?
Our desire to improve living and working conditions for our staff and producers was the impetus that led us to become the first company in West Africa to join Cotton made in Africa. Working with CmiA has made it possible for us to certify that our cotton production meets a recognised sustainability standard and to undertake a variety of projects, with technical and financial support provided by the Aid by Trade Foundation, among others.
The results of the CmiA impact study show a rise in average incomes earned from cotton production since 2015. Has this also improved living conditions for the producers themselves?
We have, in fact, seen that higher incomes have a positive effect on producers’ living conditions. Their houses are becoming more and more modern, and they now have alternative means of transport to the ox carts previously provided by IVOIRE COTON. Through crop rotation, farmers have also been able to expand the average acreage of their crops.
Through the CmiA Community Cooperation Programme, your company is also working on projects that go far beyond sustainable cotton production. Which of these projects are you most proud of?
We are especially proud of a project for improving access to drinking water. For more than two cotton seasons, we have directly contributed to protecting the health of an entire village community. Digging a well has given everyone access to safe water, whether or not they work in cotton farming.
Since you started working with CmiA and supporting the CmiA Community Cooperation Programme, what has changed for small-scale farmers and their families?
Producers dispose of empty pesticide containers more safely and take measures to protect themselves when applying pesticides. By providing hydraulic pumps, we were able to improve access to drinking water in several villages as well.
What effects of climate change do small-scale farmers in Côte d’Ivoire increasingly have to deal with?
Changing patterns of rainfall pose a major challenge. The rainy season is supposed to start between May and June, which is when sowing normally takes place. However, rain is now falling far more irregularly, which reduces the density of plants in the fields and therefore decreases farmers’ crop yields. In addition, levels of rainfall fluctuate at the end of the season, so quality and yields may suffer if the rains fall for too long or not long enough.
Cotton cultivation is undergoing a global revolution. What opportunities for sustainable cotton in Africa do you see coming in the future?
Despite the global changes now underway, cotton production in Sub-Saharan Africa will remain the domain of small, family-run businesses for a long time. This makes it necessary to adapt available means of production to their circumstances. Another key step towards the future is for producers to develop and adopt agroecological practices like zero tillage before sowing or the use of compost-based organic fertilisers. This is the only way to reduce heavy physical labour, increase incomes, and secure the future of cotton production for generations to come.