Cultivating cotton for communities
The cultivation of cotton by West African communities has brought better infrastructure¹, more job opportunities and is an essential export of the region. But the crop’s greatest contribution is to the people whose lives it has transformed for the better.
Known as ‘the white gold’ of the region, the country aims to produce over 1 million bales² of the fibre in 2022, making it the second largest cultivator and exporter of cotton in Africa.
Communities in Côte d’Ivoire that are successful in cultivating cotton tend to have higher literacy rates³, access to healthcare, and more equal opportunities for women – especially when they are involved in the entire cultivating process.
Unfortunately, however, many cotton farmers lack the expertise and resources needed to succeed and don’t have access to markets to sell it.
The establishment of Ivoire Coton
In Gbon, a small town situated in the northern part of Côte d'Ivoire, 50-year-old Nabe Kobe grows six hectares of cotton with his family.
Without any support, Nabe used to make ends meet trying to apply farming methods that he learned from his parents. He would then attempt to sell his harvest to publicly owned companies that would process and market the fibre.
However, political turmoil and a booming cotton industry resulted in the privatisation of the sector in the late 1990s, leaving Nabe, and many others like him, with tonnes of unsold raw materials.
Fortunately, this challenging period⁴ in the agricultural sector led to the formation of Ivoire Coton in 1998, with the goal of supporting smallholder farmers through the entire cotton cultivation process from start to finish and increasing cotton production in the country.
Ivoire Coton is a company that strives to improve the standard of living in rural agrarian communities. They do this by promoting farm development, offering training and equipment to farmers, and providing a framework for farmers to improve the productivity and quality of their cotton.
After the farmers harvest the cotton, Ivoire Coton processes the raw material and markets semi-finished products to international buyers.
Ivoire Coton also engages in infrastructure programmes that improve access to education, create and maintain hydraulic irrigation pumps, and increase literacy rates among local communities.
Jean-Charles, CEO of Ivoire Coton, said: “Our commitment to social impact has been there right from the creation of Ivoire Coton. We have developed multiple impact plans and programmes for the communities beyond the economic activity of cotton itself. We are also implementing our environmental objectives for a sustainable cotton production, targeting responsible management of our processing units, efficient natural resources utilisations and smart agriculture techniques.”
Partners for impact
With all the support that Ivoire Coton has provided, Nabe’s business is now able to thrive.
“The cotton takes good care of my family,” says Nabe.
He starts his growing season by planting the seeds that he receives for free from Ivoire Coton, who also provide him with fertilisers and other materials that he can pay for after he turns a profit from his harvest.
As the crop matures in the field, Nabe attends training sessions with Ivoire Coton for assistance on improving the growing and harvesting process. When the time comes to harvest the fluffy white fibre from the plants, they offer him a loan so that he can hire adequate help for the season.
Since the establishment of Ivoire Coton, Nabe and thousands of other farmers in Côte d’Ivoire have been able to see their businesses and communities blossom.
In order for Ivoire Coton to continue its impactful work, the company looks for investors that are passionate about their mission to support smallholder farmers.
Because this aligns perfectly with Oikocredit’s mission to support organisations to improve the quality of life of low-income people or communities in a sustainable way, Oikocredit has been partnering with Ivoire Coton since 2016 as an equity investor.
Prevost Kla, Oikocredit’s Equity Officer and Board Representative for Ivoire Coton, shared: “Ivoire Coton puts the well-being of farmers at the heart of its operations, in line with its mission. The company's sustainability goes hand in hand with improving farmers' standard of living. Ivoire Coton is thus committed to the development of the farmers and continuously seeks to provide the best support to rural communities.”
¹ Gergely, Nicolas (2010). The cotton sector of Côte d’Ivoire: Africa Region working paper series (Report No. 130). World Bank Group, p. 44. https://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/552341468247813306/The-cotton-sector-of-Cote-dIvoire
² Archibald, Daniel (2021). Cote d'Ivoire: Cotton and Products Annual (Report No.IV2021-0001). USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, p. 1. https://www.fas.usda.gov/data/cote-divoire-cotton-and-products-annual-2
³ Gergely (n1), p. 44.
⁴ Archibald (n2),p. 33.
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