Following a difficult start to the year, households engaging in agricultural production across the region have struggled to grow sufficient yields in staple as well as cash crops at the same levels seen last season. A hostile climate, the limited reach of extension services and inadequate availability and supply of inputs were some of the key challenges cited by cotton producer associations at the 2016 annual Southern African Cotton Producers Association (SACPA) meeting.
SACPA convened in Maputo, Mozambique from 12th to 14th September 2016 for their annual meeting which was co-hosted by Forum Nacional dos Productores de Algodao (FONPA) along with SACAU, supported by SACAU’s development partner, We Effect. The multi-stakeholder platform has eight members across the region, namely the Cotton Farmers Association of Malawi (COFAM), ODER Sofia of Madagascar, Sembulelo Sakotini Farmers Association of Swaziland, Zimbabwe Cotton Producers Association (ZCPA), Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ), Cotton SA and the Tanzania Cotton Growers Association (TACOGA).
In addition to receiving country updates from members and learning about the development of the cotton sector in Mozambique, the meeting explored the formulation of pricing models and elements which are applied. In understanding what is working well in member countries, cotton producers could collectively work towards overcoming some of the perennial challenges the cotton sector in southern Africa is experiencing through peer-learning and experience sharing.
The meeting was officially opened by the Mozambique Cotton Institute (IAM), in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security; an institution which oversees the cotton sub-sector in the country. Cotton is a strategic cash crop which is a source of income for about 160,000 farming families’ in Mozambique and while the meeting was held in the capital city, the major cotton producing areas where the crop is primarily grown are in the central and northern region. FONPA President, Mr Jose Domingos, celebrated the work that the Ministry is doing to support his organisation and encouraged better cooperation and communication between the government and themselves.
A field trip was organised to Umbeluzi Agrarian Station, a branch of the Mozambique Agrarian Research Institute and to Beluluane Industrial Park. Delegates were taken through various fields of crops planted using improved varieties, which were selected to breed higher yields of better quality crops in terms of nutrition as well as resistance to pests and adverse climatic conditions. The use of conservation agriculture (CA) by the local farmers at the Institute was also hailed in the context of climate change management, with horticultural fields mulched appropriately. Delegates were especially interested in how horticultural research was being carried out and expressed interest in exploring other types of farming activities in the down time from growing cotton.
A partnership between the government of Mozambique and the private sector partner Chiefton Mozambique has seen this Free Zone being developed, which is set to become the premier location of southern Africa for export-orientated and general industrial and manufacturing businesses, including the textile industry.
The impact of climate variability, persistently high temperatures and delayed rains were common characteristics of the country presentations which were shared. The associations shared tools and actions which they adopted over the past season to build capacities of farmers and increase their impact in their respective environments. Some of these tools and actions entailed business training for women farmers, exposing farmers to handloom technology to promote weaving and participation in crop marketing through cotton cooperatives.
Innovation was underscored as a key factor for a sustainable membership drive, with members demanding more tangible benefits from associations, forcing them to think bigger and more creatively to attract and retain their members. SACPA members left Maputo with a renewed sense of positivity, which will create the drive needed to carry the platform through its planned activities for the next few months.