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The realities of unfair trade - The case of small scale cotton farmers in Zambia


Imagine paying for your own education at age fifteen. How? Becoming a cotton farmer, engaged in an out grower scheme with a Multi National Company and employing some helpers on the field.

What level of education?

Just sixth grade in primary school.

And after working for a whole season your annual income, after paying off the loan for the cotton seeds, fertilizer and pesticides and settling your workers dues is ZMK 93 000.

"At 15 years it was unimaginable for me to earn an income that would support my education and this was what startled me the most while in Chipata a border town in the eastern province of Zambia".

Moses Mvula (picture below) is in grade six and uses the money he earns from cotton farming to support his education.

Moses Mvula being interviewed by Mutuna Chanda of QFM Radio - Lusaka Zambia
Moses Mvula being interviewed by Mutuna Chanda of QFM Radio - Lusaka Zambia (Picture by ODCMT)

But ZMK 93 000 is really nothing for the whole year.

The cotton prices during the last buying season (2004/2005) in Zambia were ranging from ZMK 800 to ZMK 1200 per kilogram.

Of these prices, Moses said he would like to see an increase in the cotton prices to get a more meaningful income for school support.

" I would like to see higher cotton prices. My life depends on this income. This is where I get my school support from".

Moses is just one of the many small-scale farmers who are crying about the low prices that cotton is fetching in Zambia.

"What is puzzling to most of them is that the production costs continue increasing year after year yet the returnsare diminishing."
Imagine that this year again after last farming season's poor run, Moses still returns to the cotton field because he has to continue with his education. For him this is a life and living worth pursuing.

And like him many are not letting go of cotton farming despite the low returns that it offers.
[Interview by Mutuna Chanda - Reporter, QFM Radio]


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