Economic and social importance of cotton production and trade in West Africa: Role of cotton in regional development trade and livelihoods (DRAFT)
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Cotton plays an important part in West Africa's development. Between 1-2 million households produce cotton in West Africa, up to 16 million people are involved in cotton production in some way and West and Central Africa taken together are the world's 2nd largest exporters of cotton after the United States. Almost all cotton produced in West Africa is on relatively small family farms as a cash crop designed to meet household's cash needs for both consumption and investment. These family farms generate some 30-50% of national GDP in West Africa -depending on the country- and in some countries they generate the largest export revenues. Reliance on export crops and primary commodities is clearly no a secure route to poverty reduction, due to price volatility and environmental risk among other factors. This report aims to provide a distinctly regional perspective, while drawing on national and sub-national data to illustrate points and ultimately contribute to initiatives supporting the development of this sub-sector. Specifically, this overview assesses: the evolving importance of cotton production and trade in the West Africa region over recent decades; the changing place of cotton in farmer livelihoods; the contribution of cotton to West African development; and strategic issues to be considered to determine the appropriate action to be undertaken in the sub-sector. The authors concludes that it is essential to continue to create opportunities for dialogue between different categories of actors in order to identify the most appropriate trade and development related interventions.