Ali Dandi

As independent entrepreneurs, all cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa have to make wide-ranging decisions for their small business - the cotton field - on a daily basis. People like Ali Dandi make sure that they can successfully and sustainably do so: the 48-year old works as regional trainer at a Cotton made in Africa (CmiA)-certified cotton company in Mafa-Kilda, northern Cameroun. As such, he trains smallholder cotton farmers and teaches them basic management knowledge in the so-called Farmer Business Schools. These are an inherent part of the CmiA training programme. "The trainings have really changed the lives of the farmers”, reports Ali Dandi. “On the one hand, they are planning their production in advance and are able to estimate exactly what they have to do in order to reach their goals. On the other hand, they are able to maintain much better with their income and profits - to the great benefit of their families.”

Trainings such as the Farmer Business School ones are a key ingredient to the Cotton made in Africa programme. The farmers, who used to lack access to basic schooling programmes, now learn how to successfully manage their small business with foresight. Which portion of the yield should be budgeted for new seeding material, how high do my reserve assets have to be and how much money do we need to feed the family and send the kids to school? These important decisions now do not have to be made solely based on intuition.

The Farmer Business Schools teach smallholder cotton farmers in the CmiA project regions important managerial basics and offer them decision support for the management of their family business. Ali Dandi and his colleagues use especially developed teaching materials such as picture blocks to illustrate to smallholder farmers how they can better estimate the market and production risks of their cotton cultivation and sensibly control their budget. Private house holding and budget management is also a training subject. For instance, Ali also explains to his participants which foods can be grown to ensure a balanced and healthy nutrition for their families.

Next to Farmer Business Schools, a second key subject lists on Ali Dandi's training agenda: the so-called Gender Trainings, which are centered around the promotion of gender equality and women's rights. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women carry out a great part of the work, both on the cotton field and at home. This is however rarely reflected in their role and position within the village communities. In addition to the principles set out in the CmiA criteria measures for the equality of men and women, Cotton made in Africa therefore puts a focus on Gender Trainings. These strengthen the role of women in the cotton sector and in the village communities. Women are schooled in modern and efficient methods for sustainable cotton cultivation according to their specific needs. Many women also get trained as so-called lead farmers, a role in which they set an example for other women in the village.

Through the Gender Trainings, the female farmers also receive easier access to loans as well as their own contracts with the regional otton companies to earn their own income. Organised into groups, they offer them a strong network and more independence. “In the course of gender trainings, a number of women's groups have been established“, reports Ali Dandi. In small groups, the women plant cotton as well as other crops together. The income they generate as a group is reinvested, for example in the construction of a warehouse, in setting up a chicken farm, or in education for their children. Therefore, both the women and their entire families profit from the Gender Trainings - a considerable benefit for everyone.

Elisé Between harvests, cotton companies have little work for the employees in their ginning plant, which is why the majority of them are employed as seasonal workers each year. Elisé Balimaya Kabaya is one of them. Since 2014, she has been working as an electrician from the first to the last day of ginning in one of the ginning plants of SOCOMA, a Cotton made in Africa partner in Burkina Faso. Right at the very beginning when starting her job, the 27-year-old woman had an accident in which she injured her hand. SOCOMA paid all of the medical costs which is by no means given in countries such as Burkina Faso. This is not the only reason why she is happy to have this job, “With the money I earn here, I can pay for my books and school fees,” says Balimaya Kabaya. She has been studying for her general secondary school diploma for university entrance and will be taking the exams as an external candidate. “My biggest dream is to study electrical engineering and later find a really good job,” she confesses. “But I also learn a lot on the job at SOCOMA because I can see how something that I normally just read in theory in my books works in practice.” Balimaya Kabaya is one of the few women who work in the factory and the only one among the electricians. “But I have no problems with that,” she says. “Everyone respects me and takes me seriously because I am good at what I do."

Choolwe Mweemba Meet Choolwe Mweemba, a 28 year old smallholder cotton farmer from Simabwachi Village in the southern region of Zambia. As the mother of three boys, Choolwe has been growing cotton on her small farm since 2012. „I enjoy growing cotton because it gives me the income to support my family”, she says. To keep her soil healthy, Choolwe alternates growing cotton and growing other crops and vegetables, especially maize. Ever since she received basic economic training in the so-called Farmer Business Schools, she can run her farm like a small business. “I have learnt to save money in the bank. I used to keep my earnings in the house and spent it without budgeting. Now I plan expenses and buy inputs for farming.”

Matakon Hacda






Education is one of the most important requirements for improving the living conditions of people in Subsaharan Africa and combating causes of migration. As standard for sustainable cotton, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) therefore puts a focus on training the participating cotton farmers in business and agriculture. CmiA also supports the fight against child labour to give as many children as possible a chance to go to school.

Matakon Hacda has a small cotton field in Mafa-Kilda, Northern Cameroun, on which he generates the proceeds that support his family. Together with his wife, he has 13 children. The fact that they do not work on the field traces back to Matakon‘s participation in the Cotton made in Africa initiative. All cotton farmers participating in the program have to comply with the criteria of the CmiA verification system. Child labour is an exclusion criterion in the CmiA standard. Regular audits conducted by independent verification agencies thereby ensure compliance.

The farmer trainings established by CmiA support the farmers in implementing the CmiA sustainability criteria. In the so-called farmer business schools the 42 year old Matakon has learnt a great deal about efficient and sustainable farming methods. As a consequence, he could already increase his yields significantly. Since his family now has more income, his children can go to school instead of helping on the farm. The CmiA-trainings not only convey knowledge about how to manage a cotton farm more economically and more environmentally friendly, but also raise awareness for topics such as child labour. The participating smallholder farmers gain an understanding about why child labour is bad and why it must be avoided. They learn that good schooling helps the entire family in the long run.

For Matakon Hacda, his partnership with the Cotton made in Africa has already improved the living conditions of his and his familiy: "Through the Farmer Business School training, we were able to benefit a lot, especially in the area of ​​managing our farms and households . All in all, a lot has changed with these trainings: we have learned a lot about good farming practices, but also about child labour.“


Isaac Banda Isaac Banda is a very experienced cotton farmer. On his small farm in the Lundazi subregion of Zambia, he has been growing cotton since 1998. Through Cotton made in Africa, Issaac has received trainings in Good Agricultural Practices - and now also has access to affordable inputs on loan. “As a result, I have increased my cotton yields and incomes“, he reports. “I have built a two bedroom house, bought a cow and diversified into two other crops.” As the father of two daughters and three sons, Isaac provides for his family. “The cotton income has helped me to attain household food security and provide other household needs.”

Bruce ChinyakaMeet Bruce Chinyaka, CmiA smallholder farmer from Tobonte Village in southern Zambia. He is 35 years old and has two daughters and four sons. His eldest child is 15, his youngest has just been born. To support his family, Bruce startegrowing cotton back in 2001. When he joined the Cotton made in Africa initiative in 2005, he received a number of farmer trainings. „Through the trainings I have attended, I learned to diversify. Besides cotton and maize, I now grow soy and sunflower. My cotton income also gave me some capital to start up a small grocery store and support my family’s day to day needs.”


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