On the penultimate day of Fairtrade Fortnight will look at how Fairtrade works with cotton farmers in Mali and how they are developing to compete with richer cotton farms that receive subsidies in countries like the USA and China, as well as the European Union.
The Malian Organic Movement (MOBIOM) began in 2002 and is an umbrella organisation for 73 village co-operatives and 6,547 farmers in the southern region of Sikasso. Those within MOBIOM grow Fairtrade organic cotton and, in 2009, produced a total of 1,054 tonnes of cotton that was all sold on for a price that has allowed farmers to improve their food security and develop their communities.
According to Fairtrade, MOBIOM’s mission is to ‘increase the incomes of members by improving the organisation’s operational performance, increase production, promote Fairtrade and organic cotton production, and market members’ products.’ It also aims to promote product diversification as a strategic response to the fluctuations of the cotton market and to adjust to the effects of climate change such as unreliable rainfall.
How does Fairtrade work with MOBIOM?
When selling cotton to a Fairtrade organic cotton to buyers, farmers receive €0.50 per kg which doesn’t sound like much but it is double the money received from selling conventional cotton. Just by increasing the amount that farmers can sell their cotton for, the poverty rate of those living in this region has dramatically reduced and farmers have better food security for themselves and their family. It also helps members of the community to be able to pay for healthcare, school costs, clothing and investment in other income-generating activities.
Selling Fairtrade also means farmers receive the Fairtrade premium that allows them to develop business practices and the make improvements to the community. In the case of selling cotton, farmers get an additional €0.05 per kg to invest. There are a number of projects that are ongoing and some that are still awaiting approval, but below are some that have been completed:
- Construction of 17 storehouses for secure storage of farm inputs and the separate storage of the organic cotton harvest
- Construction of a literacy centre to continue efforts to address the high illiteracy rate: over 80% of MOBIOM’s members are illiterate, which creates difficulties in the management of the co-operatives and particularly in the dissemination of information about production, markets and contracts
- Construction of a maternity clinic with a midwife – a huge benefit for pregnant women with complications, who would otherwise have to travel 25kms along mainly bumpy dirt tracks to receive treatment
- Dozens of bore holes have been sunk and three large-diameter wells constructed to provide safe drinking water for villagers and their livestock. These projects have significantly reduced the workload of women who no longer have to carry out the time-consuming and strenuous task of collecting water
- Construction of two cereal banks where members can store cereals and improve food security. Farmers have to sell cereals before they rot unless they have clean, dry and secure storage facilities
- Purchase and repair of primary school benches. Ideally, members would like to build more schools but unfortunately sufficient premium funds are not available