Changing Structures of Cotton Production: The place of Tanzanian cotton farmers in global supply chains

Authors: Rakhee Kewada*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Africa, Agricultural Geography, Development
Keywords: Africa, Tanzania, Cotton, Global Supply Chains, Agrarian Studies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Astor Ballroom III, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Together, the cotton and textile industries in Tanzania provide employment for 16 million people or roughly 40 percent of the population. Yet, Tanzanian cotton farmers are among the poorest farmers on the continent. Dependent on external markets since the liberalization of the industry in the mid-1990s, fluctuations in international market prices have devastating effects on cotton farmers. Today the Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB) is working with the Gatsby Trust, a U.K.-based foundation, to expand contract farming in an effort to improve the position of cotton farmers. This paper considers the effects of these structural changes in cotton production in Tanzania. While the Tanzania Cotton Board (TCB) argues that increasing access to capital through credit will result in increased production and therefore increased incomes, this paper examines how the expansion of contract farming through state cooperation with large multi-national cotton exporting firms impacts the lives and livelihood of Tanzanian cotton farmers. Through an analysis of the Gatsby Trust’s pilot programs, the growing monopoly of large multi-national cotton exporting firms, the effects of vertical integration and credit schemes in Tanzania’s Lake Zone, I explore the ways in which these structural changes affect farmers’ relationship to external markets. I argue that these structural changes risk reproducing and exacerbating Tanzanian farmers’ dependency on external markets and thus their vulnerability to the ebbs and flows of a global cotton supply chain that is today largely determined by China, the world’s largest consumer of cotton.

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