Cotton farming was introduced to Uganda in the 1940s, but slowed almost to a halt between 1972 and 1986 due to low prices and an unfavourable policy environment, attributed to armed rebellion and insecurity. Since the end of the civil war in 1986, peace allowed the new government to focus on the modernisation of agriculture. A revival in agriculture and cotton farming followed which opened the way for small-scale organic cotton farmers in certain regions of Uganda. Between 1994 and 2000, the number of cotton farmers in Uganda grew from just 200 to 24,000.
The Export Promotion of Organic Products from Africa (EPOA) works with smallholder farmers – the majority of which are resource poor – through cooperative unions that provide technical advice on organic production methods and marketing. Soil fertility and pest management is maintained with traditional organic practices such as crop rotations and natural pest control, such as push-pull. Organic cotton production from this project achieves yields of 1,000–1,250kg per hectare of seed cotton, giving 300-320kg per hectare of lint.
Organic cotton receives premium prices compared to cotton produced through conventional methods, which translates to a 15-20% premium for farmers on farm gate prices. Finally, famers’ social capital has improved through the formation of cooperatives and an increase in farmers’ knowledge of organic methods from peer to peer training.