Rechercher :

“I make my living by producing organic cotton”

Mrs. Bagnan Katiga is an organic cotton producer. She is 37 years old and a mother of six children. She has one child in high school, three children in primary school and two preschool-aged children.

success2“Cotton production is men’s business,” she said. This opinion is shared by most women in Katiga’s village of Koumbo, located in the South of Burkina Faso. None of the women in the village cultivates conventional cotton. In conventional cotton farming, the role of women is generally limited to assisting their husbands with planting and harvesting. Usually, those involved in the production of conventional cotton are part of a self-managed group that works in solidarity and creates its own rules. This type of governance leads to the exclusion of women from the conventional cotton market, because conventional cotton production requires a large amount of capital, which women cannot typically access.

Organic cotton production, on the other hand, started in Koumbo during the 2006-2007 season. It is managed by UNPCB, the National Cotton Producers’ Union. Organic cotton is freed from chemicals, such as chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. This was an attractive element for women and led them to get involved in organic cotton farming.

Organic cotton farming is currently being supported in Burkina Faso by Catholic Relief Services, though its Revenue through Cotton Livelihoods, Trade and Equity (RECOLTE) program, funded by the United States Department of

Agriculture (USDA) with an operating budget of $11.8 million.

The goal of RECOLTE is to upgrade the organic cotton value chain, increase revenue, and improve the economic prospects and food security of more than 10,000 smallholder farmers, of which at least 30 percent are women.

In 2014, when the RECOLTE program began in Koumbo village, Mrs. Bagnan contacted the UNPCB field officer, who added her to the list of organic cotton producers and provided her with seed. She also joined the local GPCB, the local cotton producers’ group. She obtained a plot of land from her husband, which was located in the family field. Since the plot had not been used for several years, it was free from chemical fertilizers and pesticides, allowing her to be certified as an organic producer right away.

From 2014 to 2016, the area of land Mrs. Bagnan dedicated to organic-cotton production doubled from 0.5 ha to 1 ha of organic cotton. Her net income tripled from 50,000 FCFA to 150,000 FCFA ($300) in the same period. In addition to cotton, Mrs. Bagnan grows peanuts (0.25 ha), soybeans (0.10 ha) and okra for sale and consumption.

The RECOLTE project also increases access to farming equipment, which enables growers to increase the cultivated area and reduce the time and effort required of traditional fieldwork. With the acquisition of a plow/hiller in the 2015/2016 season, Mrs. Bagnan was able to increase her cotton acreage by 20%.

With the income she obtained from her first cotton sale, Mrs. Bagnan purchased a young bull to help with plowing. The bull is now valued at 350,000 FCFA ($750).

success3“With the money I earned from producing organic cotton, I was able to pay my children’s school fees and purchase medicine for when my children were ill. And this year I was able to help my husband build a small house,” Mrs. Bagnan proudly states, as she describes the revenue earned through the RECOLTE program during a guided tour of the Koumbo seed farm. “I encourage other women to join the organic cotton network because it’s a way to earn money to take care of our families, and also a way to preserve our health because it does not use chemicals.”


For more information about CRS/BF and the RECOLTE program,

please contact

Address Burkina: Zone industrielle Gounghin, 01 BP 469, Ouagadougou

Address USA: 228 W. Lexington Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

©2016 Catholic Relief Services. All Rights Reserved.

Guided tour of the organic seed farm in Koumbo and donation ceremony

On November 10, 2016, Catholic Relief Services – U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (CRS) and the National Union of Cotton Producers of Burkina (UNPCB) organized a guided tour of the Koumbo / Leo organic seed farm, together with a ceremony to donate materials and funding to producers and implementing partners of the RECOLTE project. This ceremo¬ny was presided over by His Excellency the President of Faso, represented by his Special Advisor for Agriculture and Food Security, Mr. Moussa KABORE. The importance of the event was also enhanced by the participation of the Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Ouagadougou, Mr. David Young, the CRS Country Representative in Burkina Faso, Mr. Dominique Bangre, and the President of UNPCB, Mr. Karim Traore.

The ceremony was part of the U.S. De¬partment of Agriculture’s (USDA) Reve¬nue through Cotton Livelihoods, Trade and Equity (RECOLTE) project’s visibility campaign. This five-year project (Sep¬tember 2013 – September 2018) is being implemented by Catholic Relief Services in collaboration with the National Union of Cotton Producers of Burkina (UNPCB) and with technical support from the Cotton Program of the Institute of En¬vironment and Agricultural Research (INERA). With financing of around 6.5 billion FCFA, this project aims to moder¬nize the organic cotton value chain and to increase the incomes, economic prospects and food security of more than 10,000 smallholder producers in Burkina Faso, which is mostly composed of women. This project contributes to tackle the third major challenge identified in the National Program for Economic and Social Development (PNDES): The development of production bases and the competitiveness of the domestic production and processing sectors for sustainable industrial development and employment opportunities.

The President’s Special Advisor and other representatives were able to appreciate the qua¬lity of the project’s implementation through the activities presented and the donations and funding made during this ceremony.

crs2The guided tour of the farm was an opportunity to see the extent of the investment the pro¬ject has made in quality seed production. The Koumbo farm is one of three farms set up by the RECOLTE project. The production of organic cotton seed and rotational crops (sesame and peanuts) is carried out by UNPCB with technical support from INERA and the AgriLife Center of Texas A&M University in the United States. The farmhouse, which is equipped with a tractor, a borehole, a drying platform, a storage facility, and an office for the managers, also serves as a place for incubating and promoting technical innovations as well for the training of organic cotton producers.

The RECOLTE project is currently supervi¬sing a successful approach to solving the issue of the production of quality seeds and their availability for the production of or¬ganic cotton. A total of about 150 million FCFA was allocated to develop and equip these farms. Other actors involved in the project activities also made presentations for the occasion. The RECOLTE project and its partners have been very active in in¬troducing new, improved technologies to help build the capacity of stakeholders in the organic cotton sub-sector, to improve fertility management, and integrated pest management. The use of ICT technologies by UNPCB introduced and made possible by the RECOLTE project has caught the attention of all attendees as they allow for electronic data collection, processing and analysis in real time.

crs3The second part of the ceremony was the donation of agricultural materials to the producers by Mr. Karim Traore, President of the UNPCB. The strategy put in place by the RECOLTE project provides a 50% subsidy for the beneficiaries for such materials. This approach has met with the approval of the Pre¬sident’s Special Advisor, who is in charge of Agriculture and Food Security and high-level guests. The total amount allocated for agricultural materials is nearly 253 million FCFA. This money is being used to increase the use of machines in agricultural activity, which is an im¬portant factor in the development of the agricultural sector and which will ultimately affect more than 2,600 smallholder farmers.

The third part of the ceremony involved the donation of equipment by the United States Em-bassy Chargé d’Affaires of Burkina Faso, Mr. David Young, and the CRS Country Represen-tative in Burkina Faso, Mr. Dominique Bangre, to UNPCB and INERA. The donation included three tractors, three vehicles, and two dozen motorcycles. These investments, which will strengthen the partners’ capacity to aid their beneficiaries and intervene in a wider geogra¬phical organic cotton-producing zone, will amount to nearly 178 million FCFA. This will allow the partners to efficiently provide agricultural extension services to all of the 10,000 organic cotton producers targeted by RECOLTE.

The last act of the ceremony was conducted by the President’s Special Advisor Mr. Moussa Kabore, representing His Excellency the President of the Republic. Mr. Kabore presented a check in the amount of 1,262,222 FCFA to the association of women producing organic cot¬ton from the Bédounkale 2 group of cotton producers. This amount will be used to finance income-generating activities for the women. Other financing of nearly 70 million FCFA will reach 109 associations and 3,000 women producers in the eight organic cotton-producing zones of the country.

All of the authorities attending the ceremony expressed their gratitude to Catholic Relief Services for its work and thanked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the funding to make the project possible. In his speech, Mr. David Young, on behalf of the U.S. Embassy, highlighted the exemplary cooperation between his country and Burkina Faso, and promised the continued commitment of the U.S. government to support Burkina Faso’s efforts to de¬velop. He expressed his satisfaction with the achievements of the project which have made the «gift of the American people to the Burkinabe people» a well-executed investment by CRS.

crs4Mr. Moussa Kabore, on behalf of His Excellency the President of Burkina Faso, expressed his thanks to the donor (USDA) for the funding and congratulated the project actors for the impressive execution of the project activities. He also noted the commitment and solidarity of the actors, which are the keys to long the lasting impact of any project. Mr. Kabore asked Mr. Young to express his satisfaction for this ongoing success through the RECOLTE project and the commitment of the Government of Burkina Faso to the highest authorities of USDA. He called for additional support in two other areas: 1) The organization in Burkina Faso of an international textile and cotton fair, and 2) the creation of a company for the transport, ginning, processing and marketing of organic cotton.

Mr. Kabore asked the project team and Mr. Young to reflect on these «expectations ex¬pressed by His Excellency the President of Faso» to prepare for the end of the project and to reinforce the impact of its actions. The project managers confirmed that these expectations will be addressed to the extent possible in the activities planned for 2017 and 2018.

It was on these prospective notes that the ceremony ended with the TV and radio interviews of the authorities present and a reception organized by the CRS.




Zone industrielle Gounghin

01 BP 469 Ouagadougou 01

Tel. : +226 25 34 31 65 

Marketing success story – a blessing in disguise


The Revenue through Cotton Livelihoods Trade and Equity (RECOLTE) project was based on a central premise: guaranteeing a market would act as an incentive for vulnerable, smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso to double the production of certified organic and Fairtrade cotton by 2018. In addition to production activities, RECOLTE addressed other significant blockages in the value chain, such as seed supply and research. Prior to the start of the program, in 2007, a sole buyer offered generous terms to the Cotton Farmer’s Union in Burkina Faso (UNPCB), which is responsible for all marketing of organic cotton in Burkina Faso. Due to these generous terms, UNPCB came to rely solely on this one buyer and made no investments in building a brand or a marketing strategy.


In June 2015, a year and a half after the project agreement was signed and only a year after implementation started on the ground, the sole buyer informed CRS that it would be unable to continue purchasing cotton beyond the current year. The buyer cited a lower overall demand for organic cotton garments, as well as other internal factors, as the reason for their withdrawal from the program. The buyer promised to fulfill its contract through 2015, but would not fulfill its previous commitment to purchase all of UNPCB’s organic cotton through 2018.

recolte2 Considering the centrality of the guaranteed-buyer arrangement to the success of the project, and the lack of alternatives in terms of marketing activities, Catholic Relief Services and USDA held a crisis meeting in Washington, DC in June 2015.

tableau recolte1tableau recolte 2USDA’S SUPPORT OPENED NEW OPPORTUNITIES

At that meeting, USDA and CRS agreed to see the loss of the buyer as an opportunity, with USDA lending its “full support to CRS and the project staff’s vision to seize the occasion to build institutional capacities for an efficient end-to-end management of their organic cotton value chain that leads to expanded trade, a diversified customer base and demonstrated impact on the revenues and resilience of their farmers”.


After the meeting with USDA, the RECOLTE team in collaboration with CRS Director of Foundations and Corporate Engagement conducted a market assessment and thorough review of UNPCB costing mechanism. This laid the groundwork to determine actions in terms of price, product, promotion and place that would yield the following outcomes. The first-ever costing-mechanism assessment, which involved all departments of UNPCB, identified administration, transportation and ginning as important cost drivers worthy of closer scrutiny. The careful reexamination of the transportation cost, for instance, led UNPCB to change the location of the ginning facility used for the organic cotton. To effect this change, UNPCB conducted negotiations with the cotton company that owns the gins, and CRS trained 174 staff in the new ginning facility on organic certification standards. This change resulted in a 43% savings on transportation-related expenses. On top of the cost savings, UNPCB now has a very clear understanding of its own cost structure, which is useful in negotiating with buyers.

Secondly, CRS supported UNPCB to increase its visibility via more active and targeted public relations. Again with the continuous support of USDA, approvals were secured for international trips to meet with sales agents, potential customers and professionals in the textile industry, an appropriate strategy for a niche product such as organic cotton. CRS and the UNPCB collected a wealth of knowledge on quality and certification requirements, shipping standards and customer care services, and turned these into action items. For example, the entire team of extension-service providers received training on what the market requires in fiber quality and the production steps necessary to achieve it. GOTS certification is another important standard the team is pursuing, which will open up a wider customer base. Building UNPCB ability to interact with the market and listen to its main drivers, and to adjust and strategize accordingly, has been key in creating a sustained demand for Burkina organic cotton. POSITIVE OUTCOMES

“With the knowledge we acquired about the cotton supply chain, the culture of quality, customer service and care we started building and the way we were equipped for negotiation and sales, I do not foresee how in the future we will be unable to sell our products and make good margins” – Mrs. Djeneba Pagabelem – Marketing and Sales Officer, UNPCB. The facts bear this statement out: in 2015 and 2016, UNPCB sold 100% of organic-cotton production, and in 2016 was able to secure a profit margin 15% higher than Indian organic cotton of the same staple length.

Not only has UNPCB improved their sales performance, but the sales-related RECOLTE project indicators, (i) joint public private initiatives aimed at expanding trade capacity and (ii) number of countries to which selected agricultural products are exported, have doubled and tripled respectively.

For 2017, a third sales agent is interested in promoting Burkina organic cotton and an important new customer is knocking at the door. French retailing giant Carrefour has placed an order with UNPCB and has expressed interest in expanding the relationship.

It is important to highlight that these outcomes were achieved by UNPCB managing a complex value chain end-to-end from one of the poorest, landlocked countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. GREATER PROSPECTS

recolte3The RECOLTE project has caught the attention of the Government of Burkina Faso at its highest level. A meeting with the President’s Chief of Staff and Agriculture Special Advisor has opened up new opportunities to further heighten the profile of organic cotton in the industry, and in particular to demonstrate how Burkina’s organic-cotton brand can strengthen the market position of cotton produced in Burkina more generally. These are exciting days for the RECOLTE project and organic cotton in Burkina Faso.