Aid by Trade Foundation lays Groundwork for Assessing the Success of Cotton made in Africa


The Aid by Trade Foundation has presented the first study of the project regions involved in its Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA) initiative. The results provide initial insight into the living conditions of the 240,000 African smallholder farmers taking part in the project. It analyses and compares the status quo of the five west and east African countries, laying the groundwork for all future success and development assessments of the CmiA project areas

From May 2010 to January 2011, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) headquartered in Chicago completed field studies in the five projects countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Malawi and Zambia. NORC gathered data on indicators such as demographics, education, yield and income for the smallholder families that will serve as a basis for comparison in future. The Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) commissioned the study which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Demographics, yield, income and education — key findings

The study produced interesting results in demographics, yield, income and education. It demonstrated that CmiA reaches 1.6 million people – including the family members of the 240,000 smallholder farmers. Average household size in Malawi is the smallest with 4.6 people and by far the largest in Burkina Faso with an average of 10.1 people.

In Benin and Côte d’Ivoire, yield from the cotton harvest is currently 1,000 kg/ha of raw cotton and around 880 kg/ha in Burkina Faso. Cotton made in Africa’s goal is to increase yield through training, allowing the African smallholder farmers to improve their incomes and helping them to help themselves. Benin clearly demonstrates that training offered by the initiative is bearing fruit: CmiA farmers there already achieve around 39 percent higher income than those not participating in the initiative.

Still income per person is currently less than 1.25 dollars a day for 88.6 percent of all CmiA smallholder farmers. Household income in the West African countries is around 1,466 dollars a year, the median in Malawi and Zambia just 361 dollars annually. Around 12.5 percent of the families in Benin and Burkina Faso suffer from a ‘hungry season’, a time in which all food stores have been exhausted and the new harvest is not yet in. In Malawi and Zambia this affects up to 30 percent of all households.

CmiA views education as the foundation for sustainable development. While the percentage of 5- to 12-year-old children who go to school in Malawi is the highest at 77.5 percent, only 47 of those children actually graduate. In Burkina Faso 46 percent go to school and only 29% of these complete a school leaving certificate. These numbers clearly show that there is still a great deal to be done. They also highlight the importance of the social projects the initiative is carrying out in cooperation with public and private partnerships to improve school infrastructure in the rural project regions.

As a snapshot of the current situation, the study’s results underscore the importance of sustainable and innovative concepts in development cooperation. The data gained will serve as a basis for more closely focussing the CmiA initiative’s work on better addressing key core issues. It will also serve as a basis for the regular evaluation and documentation of the project’s progress in future.

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