Notes to broadcasters: Cotton and choosing which crops to grow

    | July 8, 2013

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    Growing a non-food crop has its risks. If the crop fails, or the selling price is low, farmers may not have enough money to buy the food they need. Farmers are often at the mercy of buyers and traders who offer the lowest prices they can. When farmers do not have the power of a co-operative, they are often faced with the stark choice between continuing to grow non-food cash crops or switching crops.

    Farm Radio Weekly has produced Notes to broadcasters on cotton production before. Notes on organic cotton (FRW #152, April, 2011) are available through this link:; and, from July, 2011, notes on cotton farmers in Burkina Faso (FRW #163): The Burkina Faso story, about how farmer power secured cotton higher prices, can be read through this link:

    In April, 2013, Farm Radio Weekly published a story from Uganda (“Small-scale farmers profit by switching from cotton to sunflowers, issue 242) in which cotton farmers increased their incomes by switching from their traditional crops. You can find it here: The accompanying Notes are available through this link:

    Further Notes to broadcasters on switching to more profitable crops, or ones more suited to local conditions, can be found here:

    If you broadcast to an area where many farmers grow non-food crops, you may wish to prepare programs on food security. How can farmers who grow non-food crops prevent food insecurity when crop failure, severe marketing problems, or other difficulties prevent them from purchasing food?

    Here are two program ideas:

    -Find one or more farmers in your community who grow both food and non-food crops. Host a program that allows these farmers to explain why they chose this mix of crops. What past experiences led them to their choices? Can they describe a particularly difficult growing or marketing season during which they were glad they had diversified their crops?
    -Host a call-in show that invites local farmers to call- or text-in and discuss their crop choices. For these farmers, what are the benefits and risks associated with growing non-food crops? How have farmers coped with seasons when they were not able to sell their cash crops, or couldn’t get a decent price?

    Some farmers choose to plant “survival” or “security” crops. These are crops which produce food even in poor weather and without inputs such as fertilizers. The following scripts describe some survival crops and why communities rely on them:

    -“‘Survival’ crops provide food during times of need”: (Package 67, Script 2, June 2003)
    -“The importance of security crops”: (Package 73, Script 6, January 2005)