Home > Australian cotton farmers and scientists share some lessons with West Africa

Australian cotton farmers and scientists share some lessons with West Africa

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article image Dr Lamissa Diakite (IER in Mali) and Dr Peter Carberry (CSIRO) discussing cotton systems in West Africa. (Image credit - John Stewart)

A group of Australian scientists and cotton farmers is currently hosting a delegation of West African cotton industry representatives and researchers. The Australians hope to pass some of their expertise and techniques onto their African counterparts and, hopefully, play a part in reducing West African poverty levels.

Australian cotton farming has earned a reputation for high yields and quality fibre, so the African delegation has come to the right place. Cotton is an important income source in west and central Africa and any new knowledge is always welcomed.

The African delegation includes six representatives from the so-called ‘Cotton-4 Countries’ - Chad, Benin, Mali and Burkina Faso. They are touring the cotton farming regions of Queensland and New South Wales with Australian scientists from the CSIRO, cotton industry representatives and farmers.

Dr. Peter Carberry, Deputy Director of CSIRO ’s Sustainable Agriculture flagship, points out that non-staple crops such as cotton are very important for West Africa.

He says that they provide rural populations with much needed cash to buy food, cover medical expenses, pay school fees and so forth. What’s more, this cash allows cotton farmers to grow other food crops like maize and sorghum.

The delegation has been funded by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), through its International Agricultural Cooperation program, with support from Conservation Farmers Inc (CFI).

"There are some important commonalities between the production systems in West and Central Africa and Australia. The crops we grow are similar and we both struggle with highly variable climates,” Dr. Carberry said.

One member of the delegation is Dr. Ousmane Ndoye, a researcher from Senegal and Program Manager from West and Central Africa’s CORAF/WECARD. He is also enthusiastic about the tour.

“Australia has been able to overcome so many similar issues and is now the world’s third largest exporter of cotton, producing 4.2 million bales of cotton in 2011, which is around double the Cotton-4 countries,” he said.

“After our visit to Australia, this small group will return to our respective countries and train at least 25 industry workers and farming representatives.”

The group commenced their tour from Toowoomba and the Darling Downs on 14 March. They are now making their way to Narrabri via Goondiwindi and Moree. From there, they head to Tamworth and finally to Canberra on 20th March.

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