This three-year project (2006-2009) strengthened the capacities of farmers and producer organizations, reduced poverty and improved livelihoods while creating sustainable increases in cotton production and natural resource management. The project focused on two cotton-producing regions, Banikoara and Dasssa-Zoumé, in Benin. The two regions served as showcases for the potential of improved competitiveness of the nation’s cotton sector. The project was funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Benin and was implemented by IFDC. Project efforts were coordinated with other IFDC projects in the country including the USAID West African Cotton Improvement Project (WACIP) and Thousands to Millions (1000s+).
The project utilized a holistic Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) approach, improving the productivity and sustainability of cotton production systems in Benin’s degraded soils. The project also improved cotton quality and quantity with superior inputs, crop protection products and more effective harvesting and storage. Efforts also included the diversification of cotton production systems to allow for healthy crop rotation, the efficient integration of animal husbandry in cotton-based production systems and improved incomes through increased cotton yields. IFDC also improved market capacities for cotton and other agricultural products by strengthening linkages between farmer organizations, agro-dealers and private enterprises.
The results of the project were substantial. Smallholder cotton yields increased over 100 percent by utilizing the ISFM techniques. Using 80 learning plots, more than 8,000 farmers participated in ISFM action research and determined optimal combinations of organic and inorganic fertilizers and other inputs for their areas. The use of rural radio allowed IFDC to broadcast this technical information to a substantial portion of these areas’ cotton producers. In addition, IFDC’s introduction of a gender approach to the cotton systems in Banikoara allowed for greater cotton sector parity for women.