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altDid you know that African organic cotton farmers grow over 20 different cereals, nuts, vegetables and other crops to produce a huge range of foods, drinks, oils, fibres and dyestuffs? Some of these are used by the household, while others are sold in local or regional markets, or for export.

Thousands of African smallholder farmers grow organic cotton, used in clothing sold in Europe and North America. Organic cotton cultivation has brought these farming families significant benefits in health, welfare and income but global cotton prices are notoriously unstable, even for organic cotton. So farmers are anxious not to be dependent on cotton alone for their cash income and keen to find better markets for the food crops they grow. But selling for local markets is not always an attractive option as prices are often low and local demand for organic versions of their food crops is limited.


altFarmers in organic cotton projects in Senegal and Benin are therefore exploring opportunities for exporting selected food crops. Working with local NGOs Enda Pronat and OBEPAB they are focussing on five crops: hibiscus; sesame; fonio cereal; cashew and sheanut. These have been chosen by farmers because they can be fairly easily grown and are useful rotation crops in their organic farming systems. None of the crops are a part of the staple diet so cultivating them for export will not undermine local food security.

Sesame seeds and cashew nuts are well-known in Europe and sheanut butter is a valued ingredient for cosmetic use. Hibiscus flowers can be used for colouring, flavourings and make a delicious fruit juice, known as bissap in West Africa. Fonio is a tiny cereal grain, used traditionally as a special treat food at family gatherings. Fonio is gluten-free and rich in protein.

Fibre, Food & Beauty for Poverty Reduction is a joint project of PAN Germany, PAN UK, OBEPAB from Benin and Enda Pronat from Senegal. It aims to raise awareness about the many different food crops grown by organic cotton farmers in Africa and help them to find better marketing options for these, in local or export markets.

More consumers and food companies are taking an interest in sourcing from African smallholders for ethical reasons, supporting farm families through ‘trade, not aid’, to help combat poverty in rural areas. The project is bringing African partners to organic food trade fairs in Europe; disseminating information at consumer events; and talking with consumers, NGOs and companies to develop new, ethical trading relations between cotton-based organic projects and European food and cosmetic companies.


  leaflet • Click to download leaflet
‘Hibiscus, cashew and cotton- what’s the common thread?’

Download leaflets on the 5 project crops:

NEW
Can organic cotton feed Africa? A short guide to the issues

Nutritional properties of Fonio and Bissap: health claims and evidence.

Briefing:
Organic cotton systems reduce poverty and food insecurity for African farm families.

Download information on African partners and the farmer associations they work with:


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