The Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ) Programme Plan for the period 2014-2018 is based on the CAZ Strategic Framework Document, which has recently been developedwith active participation of CAZ Board, Council and Secretariat. The Programme Plan will enable the CAZ to address key issues that are affecting the membership of CAZ, namely the 430,000 small-scale cotton farmers producing Zambia’s cotton crop.

Apart from maize, cotton is the most important smallholder crop in the country and it supports the livelihoods of circa 3.5million rural Zambians, or 25% total population. Zambian cotton farmers are dependent on out-grower/ginning companies for the supply of inputs and access to markets for the seed cotton they produce. Farmers generally find themselves in an unequal powersituation versus the out-grower/ginning companies, who dictate cost of inputs, contract conditions and seed cotton prices.

The Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ) is a member-based organisation formed in 2005 by smallholder cotton farmers to address concerns of the members in the cotton sector. The CAZ is the voice of the cotton farmer and it has been the farmers’ champion to lobby and provide membership services for the betterment of the cotton farmer. The CAZ is an active affiliate of the ZNFU.  The CAZ is recognised by out-grower/ginning companies and the Government of Zambia (GRZ) as the farmer organisation representing the interest of the cotton farmers.

Although the CAZ has had success in areas like organisational development, provision of farmers’ extension services, e.g., 27000 farmers engaged in study circle groups, it has failed to make an impression on the ginners who continue to dictate unreasonably low seed cotton prices.

In 2006 the CAZ commissioned a leading international cotton consultant to help it to develop a transparent price model. Over the past 7 years, with the active support of the GRZ, the CAZ has endeavoured to negotiate fair terms for the cotton farmers with the cotton ginners. Each season, it used the updated transparent price model as the basis for its negotiations. Unfortunately, each year negotiations stalled due to the ginners’ intransigence and their determination not to concede ground to the cotton farmers/farmer representatives.

The CAZ realises that there is a need for a step change in mind-set to enable cotton farmers and the overall cotton sub-sector to flourish.

The CAZ Programme Plan 2014 -2018 will enable the organisation to deliver tangible benefits for its membership (smallholder cotton farmers) and begin to change the key stakeholders’ mind-set, in the following keys areas:

Assist seed cotton farmers to become self or independently (not financed by outgrowers) financed farmers through access to tailored credit facilities and training

•    Facilitate the establishment and operation of farmer owned/controlled ginning enterprise through partnership with third parties who will manage the facilities. The creation of profitable ginneries that pay fair price to farmers will act as a catalyst to bring other ginners to the negotiating table.

•    Improve cotton farmer productivity through a comprehensive gender-sensitive farmer training programme based on the study circle concept, to make high yield certified cotton readily available on the open market and to assist facilitate independent and standalone seed multiplication schemes.

•    Organisational development of CAZ, enabling the organisation to improve its sustainability and lessen dependency on outside funding through lobbying for greater share of the Seed Cotton Levy, credit recovery schemes, and paid membership. Furthermore, to be proactive in all issues impacting on gender, from its constitution, byelaws, election of officers provision of farmer extension services, etc.

•    Improve and increase access to value addition within the cotton value chain by helping to facilitate the creation of handloom training centres, country-based handloom industry and oil extraction plant

•    Improve Cotton Development Policies within the cotton sector leading to the creation of a more equitable trading environment, adoption of national seed-cotton/ cotton-lint grading standards, access to inputs, assistance to CAZ to enable it to be self-sustainable, elimination of pirate-buying, creation of a more equitable tradingenvironment, safer farming practices and assist women to take a more active role in cotton farming.

The Programme Plan, covering a 5year period, will be submitted to different funding agencies, including the Swedish Co-operative Centre (SCC), Agriterra, Solidaridad and to a lesser extent Cordaid. In addition, there is potential support from Smallholder Agribusiness Promotion Programme (SAPP) and UNIDO.  United National Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), International Trade Centre (ITC), Musika, SIDA, NAO, CFU