Commenting on the state of the cotton industry in the country, Willy Bett said, “There are various challenges in the Kenya cotton sector that have resulted to its low competitiveness, both in the local and in the international market. One major constraint is the high cost of inputs.
However, since the inception of revival initiatives, the Kenyan government’s emphasis has been on enhancing strong relationships with key stakeholders such as the farmers, input suppliers, market agents, ginners, spinners and textile millers, in order to boost self-regulation and also promote not only production but also value and consumption of cotton.”
He further noted that cotton farming has previously existed in Kwale County and acknowledged Base Titanium for reintroducing it as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects.
The main objectives of Base Titanium’s CSR projects are to drive the earnings and income security for the smallholder farmers in Kwale County through empowerment.
This is achieved by providing knowledge and training to the farmers, providing access to all farming inputs such as equipment, seed and chemicals, and making credit readily available.
They also ensure the protection of co-operative and communal interests, secure market access offering predictable & profitable off-take.
Base Titanium General Manager for Environment and Community Affairs, Colin Forbes stated that the company made a commitment to the government of Kenya to improve the living standards of the communities in the area in which they operate in, through funding with substantial amounts and community projects that would outlast the lifespan of the mining project.
The company is providing a sustainable solution to the farmers by ensuring that they are supported throughout the production value chain; from the farm to the market, securing a return on their investment.
The CS further commended Base Titanium for their efforts in contributing towards the growth of the agricultural sector.
Not only for their efforts in reviving the cotton industry in the country, but also for the steps they are taking to ensure that the farmers have an opportunity to improve their livelihood and increase their income.
Base Titanium conducted cotton trials in 2014 and it was discovered that cotton farming is an economically viable venture in Kwale, and further test to determine cotton lit quality including measuring fiber strength and color gave positive results.
Successful yields and excellent quality provided strong indications that this crop has the potential to become an important contributor to agricultural livelihoods in the region.
These results could not have been achieved without considerable input from key partners of Base Titanium; B4D, DEG, Syngenta and COMPACI, as well as the dedication and hard work of the farmers themselves.
Cotton production in Kenya currently stands at 4,000 metric tons of lint while the spinning capacity demand is about 10,000 metric tons of lint. The country imports more than 50% of the lint requirements from the neighboring countries, putting pressure on the demand for foreign exchange.
Commenting on the success of the program, Colin Forbes noted the importance of working closely with community groups.
One particular group they have been collaborating with on this program is the Zubla Community which has proven to be very effective.
“A target of 1500 farmers will be growing cotton in the coming season on 1500 acres. This realization has pushed us to extend our program to Lamu and Makueni County.”
While addressing the crowd, Willy Bett also touched on the significance of inclusivity in the whole value chain on a larger scale.
“We can only get integrated into the global cotton value chain by reducing our costs of production and increasing efficiency, and in the case of farm yield.”
The government is aware of the opportunities and challenges that face the cotton sector and are keen to mobilize various resources to ensure that opportunities in the cotton-textile value chains are enhanced through; access to credit, mentorship increased capacity, expanded value addition, by encouraging the formation of cooperatives and implementation of appropriate policies to support the sector.