As independent entrepreneurs, all cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa have to make wide-ranging decisions for their small business – the cotton field – on a daily basis. People like Ali Dandi make sure that they can successfully and sustainably do so: the 48-year old works as regional trainer at a Cotton made in Africa (CmiA)-certified cotton company in Mafa-Kilda, northern Cameroun. As such, he trains smallholder cotton farmers and teaches them basic management knowledge in the so-called Farmer Business Schools. These are an inherent part of the CmiA training programme. “The trainings have really changed the lives of the farmers”, reports Ali Dandi. “On the one hand, they are planning their production in advance and are able to estimate exactly what they have to do in order to reach their goals. On the other hand, they are able to maintain much better with their income and profits – to the great benefit of their families.”
Trainings such as the Farmer Business School ones are a key ingredient to the Cotton made in Africa programme. The farmers, who used to lack access to basic schooling programmes, now learn how to successfully manage their small business with foresight. Which portion of the yield should be budgeted for new seeding material, how high do my reserve assets have to be and how much money do we need to feed the family and send the kids to school? These important decisions now do not have to be made solely based on intuition.
The Farmer Business Schools teach smallholder cotton farmers in the CmiA project regions important managerial basics and offer them decision support for the management of their family business. Ali Dandi and his colleagues use especially developed teaching materials such as picture blocks to illustrate to smallholder farmers how they can better estimate the market and production risks of their cotton cultivation and sensibly control their budget. Private house holding and budget management is also a training subject. For instance, Ali also explains to his participants which foods can be grown to ensure a balanced and healthy nutrition for their families.
Next to Farmer Business Schools, a second key subject lists on Ali Dandi’s training agenda: the so-called Gender Trainings, which are centered around the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women carry out a great part of the work, both on the cotton field and at home. This is however rarely reflected in their role and position within the village communities. In addition to the principles set out in the CmiA criteria measures for the equality of men and women, Cotton made in Africa therefore puts a focus on Gender Trainings. These strengthen the role of women in the cotton sector and in the village communities. Women are schooled in modern and efficient methods for sustainable cotton cultivation according to their specific needs. Many women also get trained as so-called lead farmers, a role in which they set an example for other women in the village.
Through the Gender Trainings, the female farmers also receive easier access to loans as well as their own contracts with the regional otton companies to earn their own income. Organised into groups, they offer them a strong network and more independence. “In the course of gender trainings, a number of women’s groups have been established“, reports Ali Dandi. In small groups, the women plant cotton as well as other crops together. The income they generate as a group is reinvested, for example in the construction of a warehouse, in setting up a chicken farm, or in education for their children. Therefore, both the women and their entire families profit from the Gender Trainings – a considerable benefit for everyone.