Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Follow the cotton!

I was quite exited on my last field trip to Burkina Faso to see for the first time in my life cotton growing in the field. We were visiting during the harvesting season, so suddenly one sees white mountains of cotton appear in the landscape.

the mountains of cotton
I was pretty astonished to learn that it was all rainfed, that it is an integral part of crop rotation in the area. Whereas farmers in the West of Bobo-Dialassou are well organized and have an organized supply chain to the cotton companies, around Bama this is not the case. This means that only farmers that are big enough to attract a cotton company to come and pick will produce cotton.

A cotton flower before harvest

Cotton is grown for its white fiber that we use to produce cloth. Yet, the flower also has seed that can be used to produce oil. When the oil is refined it is good for human consumption. The cotton seed cake is the waste resulting from oil production. It has high fat and is therefore a very good feed for livestock.
An open cotton flower with the seed in the middle
We visited Madame Kagone, the wife of a doctor who produced oil is an artisanal way her whole life. But when we met her, we discovered that she was building a quite big cotton seed oil production plant. We never discovered how it was really funded, but we were told that the goverment was becoming very restrictive and would check that the oil production for human consumption comply all the refining steps that makes oil edible for humans. So there was a clear move from artisanal production towards middle sized plant.
the refinery part of the oil production plant
So we visited such a plant, which still was under construction. We discovered that the cotton seed were bough from the state company that processes the cotton fiber. Oil and cotton seed cake are two separate products and is sold to re-sellers, and so we lost the trace on whether the cotton seed cake remained local or not.

Madame Kagone on the right with her friend who is also building an oil processing plant
We left, impressed that these type of businesses are run by women...

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