The USAID West Africa Cotton Improvement Program (WACIP) was initiated to help Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali – collectively known as the Cotton-4 (C-4) countries – increase cotton productivity and participate in world trade. About 10 million people in the C-4 countries depend on cotton for their livelihood and quality of life, including two million cotton farmers and their immediate families.
IFDC was awarded a multi-year cooperative agreement by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to lead a consortium to implement the C-4 component of the overall program. IFDC’s partners are Abt Associates, Aid to Artisans and Auburn, Michigan State and Tuskegee universities in the United States. Most USAID WACIP activities are implemented by African partner agencies through a grants program.
Through USAID, multiple initiatives have been organized in support of the cotton sector in the C-4 countries and in Senegal under the broad $17 million WACIP umbrella. USAID WACIP is increasing incomes for:
- West African farmers, for both cotton and non-cotton crops, by raising yields and improving agro-input use efficiency.
- Cotton processors – ginners, artisans and textile industrials – by improving the quantity, variety and quality of cotton products.
Pauline Simmons, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regional coordinator for Africa, recently visited one of 42 project demonstration fields in Mali’s Sikasso region. “After my visit with Malian farmers, I recognize the importance and challenges of the cotton sector and its contribution to food security, especially since staple food crops such as maize and sorghum lean on cotton for production inputs and services,” Simmons said. “That is why the U.S. government is working with the C-4 cotton-producing countries at all levels to address their concerns.”
According to Zagaye Sissoko, chief of production of the Compagnie Malienne des Textiles (CMDT) in Sikasso, the project-supported demonstration farms are key instruments of change in the cotton zones. “CMDT has been promoting crop diversification to ensure food security as part of its integrated cotton development strategy.”
Project Highlights for Cotton Farmers
The program’s flagship activity is a large-scale training and extension program to promote Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) technologies to promote environmentally sound management of crop protection products (CPPs) and increase crop yields. The project disseminated modern extension packages for cotton, corn and cowpeas to more than 700,000 C-4 cotton farmers in 2008 and again in 2009. In 2008, USAID WACIP awarded four contracts totaling $1.3 million to implementing partners for:
- Module development – 10 C-4 experts in entomology and agronomy worked with USAID WACIP scientists from IFDC and Tuskegee University to develop IPM/ISFM training materials suitable for local conditions.
- Training-of-trainers – Those C-4 experts then trained nine top extension agents from each country in IPM/ISFM. These agents in turn trained another 200 cotton extension agents in their home countries.
- Demonstration fields – More than 800 IPM/ISFM fields were established.
- Training of producers – During the 2008 rainy season, more than 700,000 C-4 farmers received IPM/ISFM training; 300,000 received intensive training designed to increase their cotton farming revenues by 15 percent over two years.
- Workshops – USAID WACIP convened workshops regionally and in each C-4 country in March and April 2009.
“WACIP’s extensive capacity-strengthening component has allowed CMDT to train hundreds of extension agents and provide hands-on training to thousands of farmers,” Sissoko said. “Partnering with WACIP makes a great difference in the field. The ripple effect of WACIP-supported demonstration farms is already visible. More and more farmers are adopting the WACIP packages.”
USAID WACIP has enhanced the capacity of the C-4 national agricultural research institutes (NARIs) to generate a steady stream of new IPM/ISFM cotton technologies through support for research, new laboratory equipment, better information exchange and stronger links to extension systems. The USAID WACIP and NARI activities include:
- Helping farmers control spiraling agro-input costs and debt load through training and pilot programs to test alternative systems of input supply. USAID WACIP provided $788,500 to C-4 national cotton producer organizations to support the training of 2,061 managers in Benin, 10,002 in Burkina Faso and 5,667 in Mali. The training material included: estimating input needs, handling of credit and the distribution, cost recovery and safe handling of stocks. The training motivated Beninese authorities to amend regulations governing cotton farmer debt. These activities help decrease the high default rates that drive farmers from the cotton sector.
- Piloting alternative approaches to input provision. Farmers who lack access to fertilizers and CPPs for food crops sometimes divert the inputs that cotton companies give them on credit to food crops, lowering cotton yields and increasing their debt. In January 2009, USAID WACIP funded a regional workshop to study alternative models for providing non-cotton inputs and to develop bankable models for future implementation.
USAID WACIP is helping develop market chains for fair trade and organic cotton in the C-4 countries. The project is supporting the safe introduction of genetically modified cotton and helping decision-makers in the C-4 countries understand the basic concepts of bio-technology (Bt) and bio-safety. In Burkina Faso, where Bt cotton production is now legal, the project is responding to strong demand for capacity building by training scientists, extension agents and farmers in bio-technology and bio-safety. Visits to Bt fields have been organized for more than 300 Burkinabe farmers and opinion leaders and for 60 interested parties from other countries.
Project Highlights for Cotton Processors
USAID WACIP is raising processor incomes by targeted investments in ginning and both industrial and artisanal textile production. These efforts include:
- Ginning higher-quality cotton more efficiently.
- Improving the quality of ginned cotton lint. In April 2008, the project sponsored a study tour to South Africa for 12 C-4 cotton company managers and farmers to see successful technologies adopted by Cotton South Africa and various farmer groups.
- Linking textile artisans to markets. After identifying a small group of export-ready textile artisanal enterprises in the C-4 countries, USAID WACIP trained 105 artisans (65 of them women) from 48 enterprises in the basics of small enterprise management and export. International design experts helped these groups develop new textile products that have been introduced at international fairs in New York and Ouagadougou.
- Developing appropriate textile technologies. USAID WACIP is assisting the efforts of artisans in Mali to provide hand-held carders, a traditional tool used to prepare cotton for spinning, to more than 1,000 women.
USAID WACIP Information
IFDC Core Competency: Gender Equity is Key to Feeding the Hungry
WACIP Extended into 2012
Cotton Boosts Food Security in the C-4 Countries (Taken from IFDC Report Volume 35, No.2 in English and French)
USAID WACIP Press Releases
USAID WACIP Holds its Sixth National Advisory Committee Meeting
USAID Supports Improvements in Ginning Systems in the C-4 Countries - “Open Days for Cotton Ginning” at SOFITEX in Burkina Faso
USAID WACIP organizes the first artisanal textile exhibition in Cotonou, Benin
USAID WACIP Builds SOFITEX Capacity
USAID Creates Market Linkages for Textile Artisan Groups at SIAO 2012
USAID WACIP Holds Its Fifth National Advisory Committee Meeting
USAID WACIP Website
USAID WACIP Brochures
Coton de l'UEMOA
WACIP Artisans Brochure - English and French Versions
WACIP Farmers Brochure - English and French Versions
WACIP Ginners Brochure - English and French Versions
WACIP Research Brochure - English and French Versions
WACIP Artisans' (in conjunction with Aid to Artisans) Orange Stripe Cushions featured in Sundance
USAID WACIP Videos
Equipment Handover Ceremony
Fifth Meeting of the National Advisory Committee in Benin
Le Coton: sur le Chemin de la Performance (Cotton: The Path to Performance)
WACIP Expo Artisanal ORTM 3 Octobre 2009
WACIP Atelier Regional IPM GIFS Avril 2008