Since 2012, TRAID has funded PAN UK and PAN Ethiopia to improve the livelihoods, health, and environment of cotton farmers by phasing out the use of hazardous pesticides on their crops. In 2023, TRAID has committed £262,511 of funding across two years (2023-2025) to continue this work and build Ethiopian farmers’ self-reliance and resilience to the changing climate and cotton markets’ expansion using agroecological farming methods.
Agroecological farming is the practice of applying ecological approaches to farming to mitigate climate change, reduce emissions, recycle natural resources and prioritise using local supply chains in the farming sector.
To date, TRAID has committed £995,091 to this project to support Ethiopian farmers to grow crops without toxic pesticides. The results of agroecological farming are extraordinary, resulting in landmark successes that include:
- 8,000 farmers trained to grow cotton without the use of pesticides
- 50% higher yields without using pesticides
- The first ever certifications for organic cotton in Ethiopia achieved
- Four farming co-operatives and eight women’s enterprises established
- Adapting and trialing natural pest management techniques on vegetable crops, now being rolled out in Ziway, Ethiopia
Hear from Menza Maile, an Ethiopian cotton farmer who has participated in the project and has experienced the positive benefits of growing cotton without pesticides.
Our 2023-2025 funding will directly impact the Gamo Gofo and Welaita Zones in Ethiopia to support 7,775 cotton farmers to eliminate pesticide use and to expand organic cotton production. Reducing and eliminating pesticides is not only good for farmers health, wealth and the environment, but also aims to future proof farmers against the impacts of climate change.
One method to future proof farmers is by diversifying the crops a farmer grows. Crop diversification is an essential tool to build resilience within farming communities. Alongside growing cotton, farmers who grow vegetable crops such as plantain, shea nuts, soya, and haricot beans can increase their food security and use the cash crops as another source of income. A wider range of crops also spreads out the farming season, giving farmers better chances of stronger yields and good harvests even if one crop fails.
Farmers will learn how to reduce their pesticide usage and use organic farming methods through the through the highly successful Farmer Field School (FFS) model. The Farmer Field School is a hands-on learning programme where groups of farmers learn how to grow crops organically and end using dangerous pesticides on their crops. Some of the content taught includes learning how to; recognise the difference between beneficial insects and harmful pests; identify diseases on crops; and maintain and improve crop health through natural farming such as applying food spray.
Farmers Field School learning group.
Watch Atalo Belay, Programme Coordinator at PAN Ethiopia explain how cotton farmers are using food spray to manage their crops organically and naturally.
Now over 8,000 farmers are successfully certified organic cotton growers through the FFS. To continue this outstanding work, the programme is making exciting developments to train more experienced lead farmers to support and mentor less experienced farmers, creating an involved community programme.
Another aspect of this project has been to increase female farmer participation, which has been incredibly successful. Now 30% more women participate in the organic agricultural industry than the traditional farming sector. This success has allowed women’s microbusinesses to emerge and prosper where groups of local women have set up organic cotton seed cleaning enterprises to ensure farmers have the best seeds ready to plant ahead of the farming season.
With these new and exciting advancements of this programme, now more than ever farmers can significantly reduce their pesticide use and build their self-reliance and resilience to take community-led action to increase their wealth and health.