Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Ohio University Press


This volume employs a modified commodity chain approach, focusing on the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of cotton production in Africa, and the links between this production and the global market. Individual chapters may examine one or multiple levels in the commodity chain and employ different theoretical approaches, from ethnography, to agroecology, to political ecology, to classic economic analysis. We want to acknowledge, however, that while the commodity chain is an important part of cotton dynamics, it is not the only force at work in African cotton. There are new and interesting developments outside the commodity chain that work for change. Networks of African farmers are linking up with international activists and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to change how cotton is grown, working to reduce pesticide use, limit genetically modified organisms, and affect international pricing policies, particularly the subsidies that the developed world gives to their farmers. This is a new and dynamic form of globalization that has direct implications for the livelihoods and well-being of Africa’s cotton farmers. We finally note that this book also seeks to update the story of cotton in Africa. While previous texts have provided a historical overview of the development of cotton production Africa—most notably Isaacman and Roberts’s Cotton, Colonialism, and Social History in Sub-Saharan Africa (1995)—this volume offers an analysis of the situation in the postcolonial period.

Chapter of

Hanging by a Thread: Cotton, Globalization, and Poverty in Africa


William G. Moseley
Leslie C. Gray


Copyright © 2008 Ohio University Press. Reprinted with permission.



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