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Re-imagining Global Agriculture: Thriving communities

Helping communities thrive by reviving cotton growing in Côte d’Ivoire

Olam subsidiary SECO1 acquired its first ginnery in 2008, when the country was recovering from civil war lasting from 2002 to 2007. Before the unrest, Côte d’Ivoire was among West Africa’s main cotton producers but during the crisis production slumped dramatically.

Against this backdrop, SECO’s ginning model and support of partners Compaci and GIZ, galvanised cotton farmers and addressed agricultural, financial and social issues to revive cotton production, secure smallholders’ livelihoods, and increase food security.

From first engaging 3,000 farmers in 2008, SECO is today working with 16,600 farmers to plant 64,500 ha of cotton. Yields have increased from 625kg to over 1,000kg/ha. As a result, SECO has commissioned a new gin in Ferke. Socially, the programme has improved literacy and numeracy, provided dedicated training for women, supporting them to achieve financial access and improve awareness of food crop production and nutrition. Another programme focuses on business skills, especially for young people. By taking a long-term approach that addresses commercial, social and environmental needs, SECO has helped impoverished communities to re-imagine an agricultural future for themselves.

Learnings contributed to the Olam Livelihood Charter, and, in January 2017, SECO was featured in a film from the Business Sustainable Development Commission and Economist Films. Previously it had featured in a book by Conor Woodman2 as a positive example of inclusive business.

1. Société d’Exploitation Cotonnière Olam
2. Unfair Trade published 2012

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