Organic Cotton Takes Center Stage At Burkina Faso’s First International Cotton and Textiles Conference

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Friday 28th September 2018 saw the launch of Textile Exchange’s first Regional Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT) in West Africa, held in Koudougou, Burkina Faso, in collaboration with CRS and USDA during the inaugural Salon International du Cotton et du Textiles (SICOT). The agenda for the Regional OCRT was framed around insights from the recent Market Opportunity Scoping Project (MOSP) carried out by Change Agency for Textile Exchange (access the MOSP Discussion Document via the Regional OCRT webpage), which were also presented during a panel discussion during the conference on “Organic Cotton’s Contribution to the Economic Growth of African Countries”. The Organic and Fairtrade Cotton Coalition West Africa (CCBE) also held a very insightful meeting just prior to SICOT, with attendance and valuable input from a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives from many of the producer groups involved. Read on to find out more.

Findings of the Market Opportunity Scoping Project for Organic Cotton in Burkina Faso Launched at the First Organic Cotton Round Table in West Africa

Friday 28th September saw the launch of Textile Exchange’s first Regional Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT) for West Africa, held in Koudougou, Burkina Faso, in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and USDA during the Salon International du Cotton et du Textiles (SICOT). The meeting was attended by over one hundred participants, including a large number of producers from across the region as well as representatives from governments, NGOs, ginners, traders, manufacturers, brands, and exporters.

The agenda for the Regional OCRT was framed around insights from the recent Market Opportunity Scoping Project (MOSP) carried out by Change Agency for Textile Exchange. The MOSP framework is based on Appreciative Inquiry: asking questions of a range of stakeholders involved in cotton in Africa to unearth the positives in the situation and identify any blockages to progress (see the full MOSP Discussion Document for more details).

We were honoured to have Harouna Kabore, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Handicrafts, officially open the Regional OCRT in Koudougou. After the opening from Minister Harouna Kabore, Boubacar Kamisskho, Chief of Party of CRS/ RECOLTE, gave a warm welcome to participants before we heard a recorded welcome also from Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE, a member of the UK House of Lords who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion (watch her welcome in the video to the right).

Textile Exchange’s Silvère Tovignan and Liesl Truscott then introduced Textile Exchange and some of it’s key work in organic cotton to date, including a preview of the soon-to-be-released 2018 Organic Cotton Market Report.

Sabali Meschi and Simon Cooper from Change Agency went on to present the key findings of the MOSP. A number of thought-starters gave insights from their experience on six of the key themes identified, including representatives from Ethical Apparel Africa, OBEPAB, Bureau de la Coopération Suisse, Africa Fashion Guide, CRS, FENABE, FiBL. Participants then discussed in small groups what could be done by 1) brands and retailers, 2) governments and NGOs, and 3) the supply chain, in order to accelerate progress in these key areas. A selection of the responses were fed back to the wider group for discussion. A summary of these responses and the key discussion points will be added to the MOSP Discussion Document in the coming days.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS – COMING SOON

Featuring contributions from Harouna Kabore, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Handicrafts, and senior figures from Catholic Relief Services, UNPCB, RECOLTE, Ethical Apparel Africa, Africa Fashion Guide and Textile Exchange, plus the women organic cotton farmers of Taré in Ziro Province, this compilation of interviews and event coverage will give a unique insight into Burkina Faso’s organic cotton opportunities, and will be premiered at the 2018 Global OCRT in Milan, Italy, on October 22, 2018.

Following the Global OCRT, work will continue to bring a huge variety of Thought Leader interviews from the Burkina Faso event online in a continuation of the “Out of the Box” series, which started at the 2016 Global OCRT in Hamburg. Arranged around the 6 themes that were the foundation of the Burkina Faso discussion, these interviews will go into depth onto issues such as the empowerment of women, the opportunities for more value addition within the country, and the need for collaboration between governments in the region.

Two videos have been released already, available below.

Regional OCRT Welcome recorded by Baroness Young of Hornsey

Interview compilation featuring four participants in the Market Opportunity Scoping Project

Meeting of the Organic and Fairtrade Cotton Coalition West Africa: An Innovative Partnership

The Organic and Fairtrade Cotton Coalition West Africa (CCBE), which launched last December, also held a very insightful meeting in Koudougou just prior to SICOT. The aim of this multi-stakeholder initiative is to provide market access for tens of thousands of small-scale organic farming families in West Africa, specifically Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Senegal.

The meeting, held on Wednesday 26th September, bought together many of the producers and other key stakeholders involved in the CCBE to present their perspectives on the current challenges and solutions in the organic & Fairtrade cotton industry in West Africa. The 5 Pillars of the Coalition were also presented, which include: Market Services; Information Services; Production Services; Institutional Setting; and Value adding locally.

Textile Exchange is happy to be a partner of the CCBE and looks forward to continuing the collaboration.

Meeting Burkina Faso’s pioneer organic cotton producers and visiting the site of West Africa’s first organic cotton gin

Participants were fortunate to be invited on a Field Visit organized by ecos and SICOT to the site of West Africa’s first organic cotton gin (adjacent to an existing conventional gin), and also to meet producers of a women’s cooperative growing organic and fairtrade cotton.

The farm we visited, which was located in the village of Taré in Ziro province, was owned by NAMA Habiba (pictured above) who has been growing organic cotton as a member of SA SCOOPS-PCB since 2016. In total, SA SCOOPS-PCB has 1,245 producers growing organic and fairtrade cotton across four provinces, of whom 757 are women. NAMA Habiba explained to us the various benefits she sees of growing cotton organically, particularly in allowing her to pay for her children’s education. She also explained some of the challenges she faces, such as transporting manure.

The new organic cotton gin that the group visited, located just outside of Koudougou, is a collaboration between the USDA-funded RECOLTE project, CRS, UNPCB, and SOFITEX. It is hoped that the gin will be up and running by early 2019. The installation of the plant will enable UNPCB (National Union Of Cotton Growers Of Burkina) to resolve bottlenecks related to delayed ginning of organic cotton. This, in turn, will encourage growth in organic cotton production and international trade.