The cotton industry in Zambia has developed into the country’s largest quasi-formal distribution network with some 300,000 smallholder farmers with an estimated one million dependents participating in various out grower schemes. This important agricultural sector relies almost solely on input pre-financing schemes operated by out grower/ginning companies, who after pre-financing the farmers’ crop buy the seed cotton produced and deducts the value of the pre-financed inputs from the money payable for the seed cotton.
The Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ) was established and launched on 25th November 2005 so as to provide a platform for smallholder cotton farmers to have an input in the operations and future development of the cotton industry in Zambia. The two main mandates of the Association are summarised as follows:
- Lobby and advocacy on behalf of cotton producers with ginning companies with regard to seed cotton pricing and contractual arrangements as well as liaison with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO) and other Ministries on cotton policies, environmental issues, tax issues and the provision of technical extension services. In so doing, establishing a more pro-active relationship between ginners, producers and the government, by acting as an honest broker when major issues arise.
- Providing services to the membership in areas of information, yield improvement, training programmes, HIV/AIDS awareness and gender mainstreaming.
“To strengthen the smallholder cotton farmers in the country so as to provide a platform for them to participate more effectively in the operations and future development of the cotton industry in Zambia.”
Cotton grows well in eastern, central and southern provinces of Zambia, in ecological zones I and II where it has done very well over the years due to suitability of the climate and soils. The major cotton out grower promoters have engaged a large number of smallholder cotton farmers in these areas.
The outputs and activities described above are designed to contribute to the overcoming of key constraints affecting the cotton sub-sector. These include the reduction of the high cost of providing extension services, increased adoption rates of appropriate farming technologies such as conservation farming, increased yields and overall production. Improved access to markets and more importantly, the provision of a “unified voice” for Zambian cotton farmers to have an input in the development of the cotton sector in Zambia.