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Revitalising domestic cotton production in Nigeria: Learning from African success stories

Rise of sustainable fashion: Eco-friendly practices in Nigeria’s fashion industry

By Stephen Onyekwelu

Nigeria’s fashion industry boasts immense potential, but its heavy reliance on imported cotton (over 90%) hinders growth and job creation. To address this, revitalising domestic cotton production is crucial. Let’s explore this issue, drawing inspiration from successful African cotton producers.

The Current Landscape

Nigeria’s cotton production peaked in the 1960s at around 480,000 metric tonnes (MT). However, due to factors like competition from cheaper imports, inadequate infrastructure, and pest infestations, production plummeted to a mere 20,000 MT in 2020 according to Textile Exchange, 2023. This decline has crippled the entire textile value chain, impacting everything from yarn production to garment making.

Read also: Intellectual property theft in Nigerian fashion: A deeper look

Learning from African Leaders

Several African countries have achieved remarkable success in boosting domestic cotton production. Here are two prime examples.

Ethiopia: Ethiopia’s cotton production has skyrocketed in recent years. From a mere 10,000 MT in 2000, it reached a staggering 140,000 MT in 2020 according to Textile Exchange, 2023.. This growth is attributed to several factors:

Government intervention: The Ethiopian government launched initiatives like the “Cotton Sector Development Strategy” (2011) which provided subsidies for fertilizers, improved seeds, and training programs for farmers.

Public-Private partnerships: Partnerships between government agencies, textile companies, and research institutions fostered investment in modern ginning facilities, improved seed varieties, and extension services for farmers.

Focus on organic cotton: Ethiopia has become a major producer of organic cotton, fetching premium prices and attracting international markets.

Burkina Faso: Burkina Faso is another African success story. Cotton production rose from 200,000 MT in 2000 to a peak of 730,000 MT in 2012 according to Textile Exchange, 2023. Key drivers of this growth include:

Farmer cooperatives: Burkina Faso established strong farmer cooperatives that provided access to credit, training, and bulk purchasing of inputs, leading to increased efficiency and productivity.

Focus on quality: Emphasis on quality control and certification programmes ensured Burkina Faso’s cotton met international standards, attracting a wider range of buyers.

Research and development: Investments in research led to the development of pest-resistant and high-yielding cotton varieties better suited to local conditions.

The Nigerian Opportunity

Nigeria has the potential to emulate the success of Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. Here’s how.

Government incentives: Similar to Ethiopia, the Nigerian government can introduce subsidies for inputs, improved seed varieties like Bt cotton (resistant to bollworm), and training programs for farmers.

Public-Private partnerships: Collaboration between government, textile companies, research institutions, and development organisations is crucial for investment in modern ginning facilities, irrigation infrastructure, and extension services.

Read also: Meet Douglas Oluwatimileyin, communicator turned fashion designer

Focus on organic and sustainable practices: Promoting organic cotton production can create a niche market for Nigerian cotton, fetching premium prices and attracting environmentally conscious consumers.

Farmer cooperatives: Empowering farmers through cooperatives can improve access to financing, inputs, and market information, leading to higher yields and improved livelihoods.

Research and Development: Investment in research to develop high-yielding, disease-resistant cotton varieties suitable for Nigerian soil and climate is essential for long-term sustainability.

Revitalising domestic cotton production in Nigeria is not just about economic growth; it’s about creating jobs, empowering rural communities, and fostering a self-sufficient textile industry. By learning from successful African models and implementing strategic interventions, Nigeria can unlock its vast cotton potential and become a major player in the global textile market.

 

Stephen Ikechukwu Onyekwelu
“In the practical use of our intellect, forgetting is as important as remembering.” William James
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