Nantie Fourie (GWK mentor) with farmers in the Taung area, North West.
Nantie Fourie (GWK mentor) with farmers in the Taung area, North West.

There is an upsurge in small-scale cotton farming that can play a significant role in alleviating rural poverty. Cotton is being planted again in rural areas that used to yield good quality crops, with the largest area in a long time coming into production this season.

Cotton SA is optimistic about the future expansion of cotton production into rural areas. While the availability of funding for small-scale cotton farmers remains a major challenge, good progress has been made in this regard.

Unfortunately, smallholder cotton farmers will have to contribute more towards their input costs, as public funding has been drastically reduced during the 2018/19 planting season.

Tertius Schoeman (Cotton SA) with farmers in the Taung area, North West.
Tertius Schoeman (Cotton SA) with farmers in the Taung area, North West.

A financing model has been designed by Cotton SA and several other private institutions to help small-scale cotton farmers.

It provides access to production funding by way of session contracts against the crop, allowing farmers to pay back the loans at the end of the season. This model is currently in a pilot phase and should be expanded during the next season.

Cotton SA acts as a representative for all role-players in the cotton industry. It operates as a non-profit company performing various essential functions such as providing information, stimulating the production and use of cotton and acting as an industry forum.

According to Cotton SA, it is expected that about 4 000 hectares will be cultivated this season by small-holder farmers under dry-land production conditions and more than 650 hectares under irrigation. These are the highest figures in a long time.

“It is very important to Cotton SA to establish more smallholder cotton farmers, especially on communal land that is currently unused,” says Hennie Bruwer, CEO of Cotton SA.

Farmers in the cotton field in the Taung area, North West.
Farmers in the cotton field in the Taung area, North West.

“It is a proven fact that in Africa, cotton production can play a crucial role in alleviating rural poverty, especially where other field crops fail due to heat and rainfall restrictions,” he says.

The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) recently completed a survey regarding this, concluding that in several African countries cotton production supported 25% of the poverty-relief needed.

Cotton SA provides mentorship and other support services to communities interested to commit to successful cotton production. In 2001, they launched a formal training program for small-holder cotton farmers at the Lowveld College of Agriculture in Nelspruit.

Invested in the production of cotton in rural areas, Cotton SA says the best results are obtained through mechanical cultivation, using the latest seed technology and the continued involvement of smallholder cotton farmers.