Cotton farming: a lucrative business in Zambia.

18-06-2014 Cotton farming is slowing becoming a lucrative business in the country. This can be attested by the large number of small-scale-farmers engaging in the activity. For many farmers, cotton farming has been seen as one way of reducing poverty at an individual household level, as well as an undertaking of acquiring sustainable economic development at national level.

Recently, cotton production has seen a steady increase from 600 kilogram/ha to 1400Kilogram/ha. This increase has been attributed to good farming techniques and practices, as well as availability of capacity building programmes mainly from the umbrella body, Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ). CAZ is a cotton farmer member based organisation formed in 2005, with the aim of providing a platform for farmers, has been working tirelessly to address the concerns of its members.

On 28th April 2014, Marly Boonman, Agriterra Liaison Officer from Netherlands started her six days working visit to CAZ. During her visit, she interacted with small-scale farmers and carried out monitoring and evaluation projects in cotton farming. In an interview with Boonman, she emphasized the need to establish study circle groups to promote the formation of cooperatives. "I am impressed with farmers in the manner they have developed the ideal of cooperatives because my previous visit it was visibility studies and it was more like a talk show than reality," she says. She explained that it is encouraging that many small-scale farmers had acknowledged the importance of establishing cooperatives to assist them market the product. "Farmers still need to continue with study circle groups since the issue of cooperatives is only a vision for now. It is good to dream because it is from the dream that one can make the dream into practical therefore; farmers need to start small and grow with the dream of cooperatives," she advises.

She explains that lack of internal capitalization is one of the key reasons why cooperative are having hard times to survive, grow, compete and realize new business ambitions, as well as lack of member equity to leverage investments is a major problem. She noted that small-scale farmers face challenges like internal capitalisation of the product. "Imagine starting a cooperative with K 500 (US$75.76) as working capital. Do you think that cooperative will be a successful story?  The answer is no. They need far more than this although some farmers are already resisting to contribute K10 (US$1.52) towards cooperative membership", she spectacles.

She commended the work being done by CAZ to promote the industry. "CAZ need to keep on with their good work and to remain visionary, as they have done in acquiring a new farmer owned ginnery. It is good that Mumbwa farmers will have their own ginnery to gin they cotton at their own backyard," says Boonman.

Written by: Gift Budden Malambo - Agricultural journalist in Zambia

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