This partnership aimed to establish ethical cotton production in Kenya. South east Kenya’s Kwale region was once a thriving cotton growing area, with regular rainfall, good soil drainage and a well-established smallholder farming model. However, cotton production has declined in recent years, leaving many smallholder farmers with little or no income opportunities, predominantly using their land for subsistence food production, and living on incomes of less than USD1.25 per day. Many lack access to inputs and services for their farms and to markets for the sale of their products.
The partnership ensured smallholder farmers interested in growing cotton were equipped with the skills and training required to produce commercial quality cotton for sale into export markets and global supply chains, securing local livelihoods and the future success of the cotton industry in Kenya.
Base Titanium is a wholly owned subsidiary of Base Resources, an ASX listed resources developer. Base Titanium’s leading project is the AUD430 million Kwale Mineral Sands Project which commenced production in late 2013 with an expected life of 12 years. In addition to providing co-funding for the initiative, Base Titanium provided access to its facilities for training venues and community meetings, as well as logistical support and personnel to assist with community liaison.
The Cotton On Group is Australia’s largest value fashion retailer. The Group aims to ensure its supply-chain is a platform for changing lives and improving the environment, while maintaining a commercially sound and competitive business. In addition to providing co-funding, Cotton On committed to purchasing 100 per cent of the Kwale County cotton at a fair market price for production as garments at its factories in Bangladesh.
Business for Development (B4D) is a non-government organisation facilitating the development of inclusive businesses. B4D managed the activities on the ground as part of a portfolio of projects under Base Titanium’s community engagement commitment.
Built on the success of a sustainable cotton project piloted by Base Titanium and Cotton On in Kwale County in 2014, this partnership reached 1,641 farmers, 359 fewer than planned, reflecting challenging weather patterns in 2016 that restricted the number of cotton sites developed and eventually harvested. Despite the disappointing rainfall, sufficient high quality cotton was harvested and exported to Bangladesh to be made into garments by Cotton On.
Forty per cent of the cotton farmers trained under this initiative were women. Women were actively encouraged to participate as landowners and farmers. Gender specific training and mentoring was provided where appropriate to encourage women’s participation, and gender and social inclusion training was conducted with the Kwale Farmer Cooperative Board, management and staff.
Following the completion of the funding phase of this partnership, work continues in a number of key areas. Skills development programs for local farmers continue and a ginnery was constructed, funded by Base Titanium, with the aim of drawing cotton from surrounding regions and supplying Cotton On’s factories in Bangladesh. Base Titanium, Cotton On and B4D continue to work in partnership, securing bank funding to assist in purchasing the cotton grown by the farmers, and enabling farmers to collectively sell into the Cotton On supply chain as well as other supply chains into the future. Securing funding had been a significant obstacle in this partnership. The partners are also laying the foundations of a robust results measurement program, and will begin working with Oritain (a scientific traceability system) to track the cotton from farm to store as part of their assurance program of cotton and supply chain integrity.
This partnership brought together four Australian entities committed to improving economic development in Kwale County, providing opportunities for local communities to directly participate in the local economy, and creating direct employment opportunities. The initiative created a new ethical cotton source for Cotton On, in keeping with its vision that its cotton be 100 per cent sustainably sourced by 2021. This partnership also contributed to the Kenyan government’s understanding of the potential for value chain benefits of the cotton industry. This initiative played an important role in DFAT’s economic diplomacy with the Kenyan Government and further enhanced ‘brand Australia’ in mining in Africa.