Cotton value Chain Analysis in Cameroon. Report for the European Union, DG-DEVCO. Value Chain Analysis for Development Project (VCA4D CTR 2016/375-804)

Fok, Michael; Nicolay, Gian; Meier, Matthias; Balarabé, Oumarou; Calaque, Romain (2019). Cotton value Chain Analysis in Cameroon. Report for the European Union, DG-DEVCO. Value Chain Analysis for Development Project (VCA4D CTR 2016/375-804) [Bruxelles, la Belgique]: Value Chain Analysis for Development Project (VCA4D CTR 2016/375-804)

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The cotton value chain (VC) in Cameroon is taking on major economic importance in the country’s North province, the poorest region in the country. During the 2017-18 harvest studied, which achieved a production of 254,181 tonnes of seed cotton (305,000 t in 2018-19), it generated income for more than 30% of rural households, while providing food security through the grain crops grown in rotation with cotton. Cotton-growing regions are affected by persistent insecurity related to Boko Haram in the Lake Chad sub-region, as well as kidnappings for ransom carried out at national level and growing conflicts between crop farmers and transhumant livestock farmers. Reducing insecurity must involve local actors and requires knowledge of local systems and imagination to design effective actions. The lack of outlets for agricultural products in Nigeria, likely to persist at the very least until the next elections, in 2023, is driving peasant farmers to produce more cotton in order to meet their financial needs, as a part of the increasing monetization of the operation of rural societies. Cotton is profitable for producers, even for the large numbers of them producing on less than 1 hectare. It provides an income for producers’ associations (PA), allowing them to carry out actions with a positive socio-economic impact, although the scope of these is limited by the financial means available. Production has already been in a growth phase for the past several years thanks to a remarkable partnership between the Sodecoton (SDCC), the Confédération Nationale des Producteurs de coton du Cameroun (CNPC-C) [Cameroon national confederation of cotton producers] and PA, without negative indications for food security at the farms concerned. IT tools for monitoring-evaluating and supervising PA at the SDCC are excellent methods for finding out who producers/PA are and how they produce/operate, even though skills could be improved in order to draw more information from these tools. While carrying out public service missions on behalf of the government of Cameroon (in particular, maintaining paths and supporting livestock farming), the SDCC has restored profits in its “cotton” business. This return to a positive financial situation remains fragile, considering the state of means and of transportation and processing infrastructure, as well as the inadequate sale of solid byproducts of crushing, although potential opportunities do seem to exist. The forecast of a continuous increase in production nonetheless runs the risk of a colossal financial deficit for the SDCC, which has the obligation to purchase all seed cotton from producers. It therefore runs the risk of a significant disturbance in the operation of the VC, in the context of persistently inadequate capacities related to transportation and industrial processing, and the insecurity of energy supply. The financial deficit will be significantly greater than the 36 billion FCFA recorded in the recent past. Financial partners’ declaration of intent to invest in development is taking time to materialize. The SDCC’s risk of a colossal financial deficit in the short term is making it necessary to take responsibility and to stop procrastinating. On the level of peasant farmers, the predictable increase in production will be based on the continued expansion of farms in the context of the decreasing fertility of soils. This raises problems related to land or the exploitation of the space that threaten stability and social order. In the context of high demographic growth rates (a fertility rate of six children per woman), these problems are raised in terms of the availability of land in the Far North, the increased farming of land in biodiversity conservation areas in the North, and the increasing difficulty of access to land for the masses of “small” peasant farmers (70% of peasant farmers overall) across all cotton-growing regions. The persistent lack of providing adequate answers to these problems has the effect of exacerbating conflicts between sedentary crop farmers and transhumant livestock farmers. Resolving the aforementioned issues related to land or the occupation of the space is not easy in the context of the current governance structure and the poor communication between traditional lamidate chiefs and official government institutions (such as communes, established 20 years ago but which possess inadequate means and capacities) or civil society. The SDCC has neither the authority nor the capacities to intervene. Supporting an increase in production requires the implementation of actions to accompany the farming of land and the occupancy of space in a process that divides responsibility between the actors involved in the field. The experiences of neighbouring countries can serve as an example. A restriction of the expansion of farmed areas must be sought by means of an increase in productivity through ideal research/development actions to be carried out as quickly as possible, making use of an effective existing partnership. The management of the above-mentioned actions will in turn have a positive effect on the environmental impact of the VC. The sustainability of the cotton VC in Cameroon is primarily contingent on the success of regional measures to combat Boko Haram and national measures to pacify the coexistence of sedentary farmers and transhumant livestock farmers (for instance by establishing corridors). The redressing of the inequality of subsidies provided by affluent countries to their producers could also have a positive effect, but this has been awaited since 2003. Provided that the regional and national measures mentioned are taken to move towards efficiency, actions more specifically pertaining to the VC must be considered, with different deadlines. They should not, however, take into consideration the current climate change deadline, the manifestations of which are not yet well-defined or stable. Over the short term, this would consist in: • Bringing the SDCC’s processing, transportation, and energy supply capacities up to standard; • Adapting production support to the needs of both small cotton producers and the largest producers; • Strengthening the financial means of PA to increase the socio-economic impact of their actions; • Establishing new partnerships to guarantee outlets for solid byproducts of cottonseed crushing; • Strengthening the search for new, more productive technical solutions with a reduced use of chemical inputs; • Increasing skills in the use of IT tools at the SDCC to facilitate the monitoring of the actions carried out. Over a timeframe of 5-10 years, this would consist in: • Working to diversify agricultural production by continuing the actions already implemented (the case of soy) or by launching new crops, in order to establish new VC to complete the income sources of populations; • Expanding the scope of action of the partnership between the SDCC, the CNPC-C and PA to include the issue of land and the occupancy of space with respect to availability, access, and maintenance of fertility under the different usufruct regimes (in particular that of land rental). The involvement of different authorities – traditional (lamidates) and modern (communes) – cannot be avoided; it is indeed difficult to imagine a partnership framework transcending the current tripartite dimension, and real willingness would be required to provide the necessary means and capabilities.

Item Type:

Report (Report)


School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL
School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Consumer-focused Food Production
School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute
School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Consumer-focused Food Production > Sustainability Assessment of Food Systems


Fok, Michael;
Nicolay, Gian;
Meier, Matthias0009-0006-0991-0408;
Balarabé, Oumarou and
Calaque, Romain


S Agriculture > SB Plant culture


Value Chain Analysis for Development Project (VCA4D CTR 2016/375-804)




Matthias Meier

Date Deposited:

05 Feb 2021 11:34

Last Modified:

09 Nov 2023 21:46




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