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Developing cotton organizations in Mali: From Village Association to cooperative

Many farmers across Africa have discovered the benefits of working together as part of a cooperative. In Mali, cotton farmers work in cooperatives to share useful information, gain access to credit, and improve marketing opportunities. This script provides details about how Malian cotton cooperatives are formed and how they operate.

This script, along with nine others on the work of farming, was generously supported by the Social Justice Fund of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW). The other scripts can be found online, as follows:

-Market News from MEGA FM (Package 83, Script 3, March 2008): http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/83-3script_en.asp
-Radio Spots: Protect Your Health And The Community From Agricultural Pesticides And Fertilizers (Package 83, Script 4, March 2008): http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/83-4script_en.asp
-Seeing The Difference: Project Makes Farming More Attractive By Improving Farming Methods And Income (Package 83, Script 5, March 2008): http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/83-5script_en.asp
-Cooperative Farm Labour: Many Hands Make Work Easier (Package 83, Script 6, March 2008): http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/83-6script_en.asp
-Forming An Effective Farmers’ Cooperative (Package 83, Script 7, March 2008): http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/83-7script_en.asp
-Farmers’ Cooperatives Help Zambian Farmers Survive And Thrive (Package 83, Script 8, March 2008): http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/83-8script_en.asp
-Financial Management For Smallholder Farmers (Package 83, Script 10, March 2008): http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/83-10script_en.asp
-Sekedo, a drought resistant sorghum for Karamoja (Package 84, Script 1, August 2008): http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/84-1script_en.asp
-Orange sweetpotatoes (Package 86, Script 12, December 2008): http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/86-12script_en.asp


Notes to broadcaster

Cotton growing, which is coordinated by the Compagnie Malienne de Développement de Textiles (CMDT), covers an area of more than one hundred and thirty thousand square kilometres, extending over the entire southern part of Mali. This area includes more than six thousand villages and more than three million people, which is more than one quarter of the country’s population. Cotton growing and marketing which are managed by the CMDT are a major part of agriculture in Mali. However, the weakness of the local textile processing industry means that most Malian cotton is exported as a raw material.

In 1974, the year the CMDT was created, cotton growers in Mali began to organize in order to take control of their own destiny. With the support of the CMDT, they established goals to increase cotton yields and to work towards the participation of farmers in all aspects of the cotton supply chain. It was a matter of increasing cotton growers’ involvement in developing seasonal production plans, managing farm credit, strengthening the trust and collaboration between growers and the CMDT, and transferring certain technical skills to the growers.

Through their involvement in literacy training programs initiated by the CMDT for farmers, village leaders suggested that Village Associations be established. These groups gave villages a single spokesperson in their dealings with the CMDT.

The Village Associations began to take on some functions that were formerly reserved for the CMDT’s technical officers. Among other duties, Village Associations took inventories of growing areas, supplied growers with seeds and other inputs, managed farm credit, and were responsible for the marketing of products and the literacy training of growers.

By 2000, almost all of the six thousand villages in the cotton growing region had their own Village Associations. At this time, the Village Associations were experiencing a growth crisis similar to that in the cotton growing industry. There was a need for a new, more flexible farmer organization with its own legal status. This change was carried out in two stages: first, the establishment of the cotton producers’ associations, and second, the establishment of the cotton growers’ cooperatives. This radio script shows this transformation and illustrates the advantages of these changes for cotton growers in Mali.

This script is a mini-drama, based on information gathered and interviews conducted in Mali. Thus, the characters do not represent real people, but are simply characters in a drama. You may choose to present this drama as it is, explaining that the information is from Mali. After you broadcast the mini-drama, a local farmer or cooperative expert could talk about farmers’ cooperative groups in your local area, and any national regulation of these groups. Or, you could simply use this script as a starting place to write a script about farmers’ cooperatives in your own area.


Increase in volume of theme music, then fade out

Host: Good morning dear listeners, and welcome to (insert name of program). Today, we present a program produced by the Mali Association pour le Développement Actif et Participatif or ADAP, which explains everything you need to know about cotton cooperatives in Mali. (Pause) The story takes place in Signè, a small village located about 20 kilometres from the town of Koutiala in the Sikasso region of southern Mali. A man by the name of Baba, a fairly influential personality in Signè and a member of a cotton growers’ cooperative, often goes to town on his motorcycle. He has been contacted by Moussa, a leader in a neighbouring village. Because of rumours, Moussa is confused and wants to better understand how a cooperative works. For example, what is the difference between a cooperative and the Village Association that everyone knows about?

Village noises – conversations, the rumble of vehicles, sounds of cattle and other animals. Fade out under the dialogue. The noise of a motorcycle increases, lasts a few seconds, then disappears when the engine stops.

Moussa: Baba, i ni sogoma (Good morning, Baba).

Baba: Umbaaa!!!! Musa ini sogoma. (Thank you. Good morning, Moussa).

Moussa: Baba, please explain something to me. I’ve just found out that you have left the Village Association in order to establish a cooperative. What’s that all about?

Baba: Nobody knows the problems with growing, selling and processing cotton better than small cotton growers. Do you remember the workshop on Village Associations that was held in Ségou in December 1998? The participants encouraged farmers in the cotton growing regions to refocus on the Village Association’s purpose of improving production and to be inspired by the Village Association model, as well as bringing more professionalism and independence to the groups. Here in Signè, after several meetings, we decided to form a cooperative. I am not alone. All the cotton growers in our Village Association came together to create this cotton and food crop producers’ cooperative.

Moussa: Can you explain it to me a little more?

Baba: Certainly. I’ll begin by reassuring you that the members of the new cooperative are all cotton producers from the Village Association. The difference is that we have created a better relationship with farmers who grow other food crops such as corn, millet and sorghum with cotton. As a result of problems in the Village Associations, we decided to create our own organization, which is this cooperative.

Moussa: How many cotton growers can join together to form a cotton growers cooperative?

Baba: You have the legal right to form a cooperative with as few as five members, but the more members a cooperative has, the stronger it will be. In some places, all the members of a Village Association joined together in a single cooperative because, according to the saying “kono kulu jèlen de bè bii fo” – united we stand, divided we fall!

Moussa: What steps have to be followed to create a cotton growers’ cooperative?

Baba: It’s really easy. It is simply a matter of holding a general meeting of the members of the cooperative to approve the statutes and by-laws, electing a managing body, and registering the cooperative with the authorities. Creating a cooperative is free. To belong to a cooperative, you must be of Malian nationality, agree to the management principles, share the same vision, and establish a decision-making strategy based on consensus and full participation.

Moussa: That does not sound difficult. Anything else?

Baba: Each member must buy a share in the cooperative. This helps build the group’s capital. The members of a cooperative must be from the same village. The cooperative can be made up only of men, only of women, or it can have a mixed membership. After drawing up and adopting the statutes and by-laws at a general assembly, these documents must be sent to the authorities. The authorities verify that they comply with legal requirements and then accredit the cooperative.

Moussa: Tell me, Baba, how does your cooperative work?

Baba: All cooperatives operate through a management body called the Board of Directors and a monitoring body called the Supervisory Board. The members of these Boards report to the annual general meeting with a policy report and a certified financial report.

Moussa: Perfect. That seems clear enough to me. What are the advantages to growers of being members of a cooperative?

Baba: There are many advantages. First of all, the cooperative can call on the services of various kinds of experts to help its members benefit from useful information and support. Cooperatives can support and advise their members in their dealings with technical and financial partners, including guaranteeing loans for them with the banks. Cooperatives also help their members access farm credit, help them purchase inputs and agricultural equipment, ensure the collection and marketing of cotton seed, and offer training in literacy. Cotton growers are now full players in the Malian cotton sector.

Moussa: Ah! Baba, cooperatives have benefits, but it seems to me that it’s complicated to establish them.

Baba: Don’t worry about it. There are NGOs that can help you set up your cooperative.

Moussa: Which ones?

Baba: We benefited from the support of ADAP, or the Association pour le Développement Actif et Participatif. Its contact information is: NGO ADAP: Tel/Fax: (00223) 20640 828 – e-mail: ongadap@yahoo.fr – Quartier Darsalan II – Rue 336 Porte 46 – Carré Gautier on the Ségou highway. It is based in Koutiala. ADAP’s agents visit us here in Signè several times a month. Perhaps with a little luck you will meet an agent today, because they announced this morning on Koutiala radio that ADAP’s head organizer is supposed to come here today.

Moussa: Well then, I will wait for him.

Baba: Let’s go to my place and listen to the radio while we’re waiting.

Increase in village noises and fade out


Host: That is how the cotton growers’ cooperatives in Mali operate. Do you have cooperatives in your region? How do they differ from the ones in Mali? Send your reactions to (Editor’s note: broadcasters should insert the contact information for the pertinent organizations in their region). Bye for now.


-Contributed by: Mr. Boureima Guindo, President of the Association pour le Développement Actif et Participatif (ADAP), an NGO.
-“Notes for broadcaster” and the “further information” section contributed by: Mme. Tata Coulibaly, head of CMDT’s Service Appui aux Organisations Paysannes, and Modibo G. Coulibaly, National Research Coordinator for the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI) in Mali.
-Reviewed by: Mme. Tata Coulibaly.


Further information

The Association pour le Développement Actif et Participatif (ADAP) is a development organization in Mali that aims to improve the lives of rural people by helping them to form organizations or interest groups, re-establish their self-esteem, support them to select desired trades and better manage their activities, and help to finance development projects for the entire community. On the strength of this experience, ADAP was directed by the Programme d’Amélioration des Systèmes d’Exploitation (PASE) to help farmers in the Koutiala region organize themselves into cotton growers’ cooperatives. Among other strategies, ADAP has used local theatre performances to help teach the farmers about cooperatives.

The Compagnie malienne pour le développement des textiles (CMDT) is in charge of managing Mali’s cotton growing industry. The government of Mali owns 60% of the company’s capital of 32.5 billion CFA francs and a French partner owns 40%.

CMDT has several tasks: providing agricultural advice to cotton farmers; collecting, marketing, and ginning cottonseed; and overseeing the sale of cotton fibre to textile industries in Mali and for export.

It is organized into several departments, including the department in charge of supporting farmers’ organizations in the CMDT region. Through this department, the CMDT has helped farmers to organize themselves into Village Associations. As a result of the dynamic relationship between the farmers’ organizations and the CMDT, the first country doctor has come to N’Tossoni. This initiative began the establishment of community health centres in Mali.

Other results of the partnership between the CMDT and farmers’ organizations include technical training and mechanization of growers, literacy education, the management of village land, the improvement of the environment in rural communities, specific projects for women, and recognition of women in all development programs and projects. However, serious social crises are appearing in the Village Associations. The CMDT initiated workshops and studies to identify these crises. This led in December 1998 to a workshop in Ségou about Village Associations in order to identify and analyze the problems.

The report of this workshop defined several major problems, including:
– the regulatory vacuum and the lack of appropriate regulatory procedures;
– technical weaknesses related to the poor operation of village truck stops;
– the concentration of Village Association powers in the hands of a minority;
– the ambiguity of the Village Associations’ goals and mission;
– the involvement of certain extremely zealous CMDT agents in the management of Village Associations activities;
– the chaotic granting of credit; and
– growers’ over-indebtedness.

The first cotton growers’ associations were formed in 2001/2002. These pre-cooperative structures were quickly replaced by cotton growers’ cooperatives. In March 2007, there were 6,176 cotton growers’ cooperatives and 225 Village Associations in the CMDT region.

The most important goals assigned to cooperatives by their members are to:
– promote cotton growing in a sustainable and intensive way and look after members’ interests;
– promote access to farm credit for their members;
– facilitate the acquisition of agricultural inputs, and ensure the gathering and marketing of seed and cotton harvests;
– promote literacy education and professional training for their members.

In March 2007, the government of Mali transferred authority for procurement of cotton inputs, cereal grains and equipment to the Union Nationale des Sociétés Coopératives de Producteurs de Coton (UN-SCPC). This national umbrella organization represents cotton growers within the Interprofession du Coton.

In October 2008, cotton growers, under the leadership of UN-SCPC, held a national forum on improving cotton production in Mali. The growers hope that the recommendations and the commitments made will enable Mali to regain its status as a major African cotton producer.


Special thanks to the Social Justice Fund of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) for supporting the production of this script.

Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)