Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Ohio University Press


Several broad themes emerge from the chapters in this volume. While declining world prices are a serious issue, the ability of farmers to weather declines in prices is often determined by national and local issues. These include government policy, institutions that provide marketing and supply services, access to resources such as land, labor, and agricultural inputs, and individual decision making. Despite declining world prices, some cotton growing economies have had success with cotton production while others have not fared well. In particular, the failure of cotton institutions in many countries is striking.Whether it comes to managing input distribution, new technologies, or marketing, cotton institutions are failing African farmers. Prices offered to farmers in West Africa declined from 2003 to 2007 at the same time that input prices increased in many countries, making cotton production precarious for local producers. Problems with corruption, particularly in the marketing and transportation of cotton, have made cotton difficult for poorer farmers, who are cash constrained. Late payments, a theme of many chapters in this book, have put farmers in a bind, constraining them to sell food crops (which must often be repurchased later in the season for a higher price) in order to settle debts. One of the results of this squeeze has been high levels of indebtedness. Cotton farmers must borrow large amounts of money for inputs, sometimes equaling almost half of what they expect to gain at the end of the season. The risks of crop failure are high, for many reasons, from household labor shortages to late pickup, to unforeseen natural disaster. These risks become less and less justifiable as cotton prices decline.

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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