The Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ) expressed deep concern over the exploitation faced by cotton farmers in the country. Speaking at a press conference in Chongwe District, CAZ Executive Director John Ngwenyama called for the adoption of the Cotton Bill to establish a fairer and more representative law.
In a statement issued by Euprasia Banda, Communications Officer at the Cotton Association of Zambia, Mr. Ngwenyama emphasized that farmers have actively participated in the review of the Cotton Act of 2005, and they seek support as it heads to parliament in the coming weeks.
“The current Act does not acknowledge CAZ as the farmers’ representative, and this is at the root of our problems, as we are a farmers’ association but lack the authority to represent our farmers in price negotiations,” Ngwenyama stressed.
He emphasized the need to establish a transparent pricing mechanism, as the current pricing in the cotton industry is solely determined by cotton companies using their own models, which farmers believe do not accurately reflect the true producer price.
“To address the lack of trust within the industry among stakeholders, a clearly defined pricing model that is transparent to all parties should be incorporated into the Act. This will empower farmers to make informed decisions ahead of the production season. Farmers are key stakeholders in the cotton value chain, and for cotton to truly become fair and sustainable from farm to fashion, the farmer’s role must be recognized and included,” he asserted.
Ngwenyama further highlighted the necessity for certified cotton seeds and pesticides to be readily available on the market.
“At present, farmers cannot easily purchase cotton seeds from agro dealers; we are dependent on ginners for distribution. We call for cotton seeds to be accessible on the open market. Additionally, we require access to certified cotton chemicals to boost cotton cultivation and achieve higher yields,” Ngwenyama explained.
He also stressed the importance of harmonized extension services to provide farmers with the necessary knowledge and training on effective agricultural practices.
“Access to cotton seeds and certified cotton chemicals alone is insufficient without the knowledge of how to use them effectively. Therefore, we advocate for a unified extension approach. The Cotton Development Trust, with support from the RS1 program, is developing a manual for this purpose, and we fully endorse this initiative. Once the manual is ready, we look forward to its adoption and the training of extension service providers to disseminate this knowledge to farmers,” he added.
Ngwenyama further emphasized the need for value addition initiatives, particularly at the grassroots level, to capacitate weavers for industrial-level production with mechanization.
“Cotton is a plant with various valuable components. While the cotton balls produce the cotton we are familiar with, the stalks can yield manure and charcoal. We have been trained to produce biochar to enhance soil fertility and charcoal for energy, reducing deforestation. Cotton seeds also yield oil for human consumption and cake for livestock. Moreover, they can be used for mushroom cultivation, which is already happening at the local level, and we seek support to scale this up,” he concluded.