Ronald Njoroge OUAUDOUGOU, (Xinhua) --
Burkina Faso small scale farmer, Sanu Sibiri,
took up planting of Genetically Modified Cotton in 2009. Four
years later, his life has improved dramatically as a result of
embracing biotechnology in one of world poorest continent.
the first time I was able to make a return on my investment
thanks to the Bt cotton,” he said when African farmers went on
study tour of his farm on Sunday that is located 400 km away
from Burkina Faso’s capital city of Ouagadougou.
Sibiri, who has planted three
hectares of biotech cotton, added that yields have improved from
400 kg per ha to at least one tonne per ha. However, scientists
have been able to achieve two tonnes per ha.
The transgenic cotton that is
widely grown in Burkina Faso was developed by inserting a gene
on one of the locally available high yielding varieties.
The GM cotton is highly resistant
to the Bollworm pest that is responsible for most of harvests
The father of four, now only has
to spray his cash crop twice per season down from the nine that
was required with conventional cotton. The two sprays are
against the sucking insects that are common in Africa.
The pesticides are also one of
the biggest costs of production for any cotton farmer. “I have
channeled the savings to improve the living standards of my
family,” the farmer said.
now also have more time to do social activities instead of
applying the dangerous pesticides,” he said. The West African
nation was one of the few countries that have taken the bold
step of commercializing Bt cotton.
It has been growing conventional
cotton for several decades. However, since the early 1980s pests
such as bollworms began taking a heavy toll on the farmers’
to 90 percent of crop was damaged by the common pests,” Sibiri
said. As of 2013, over 250,000 small scale farmers in the
landlocked nation have embraced Bt cotton.
They have cultivated over 500,000
ha of the transgenic variety of cash crop.
In addition, approximately 52
percent of cooking oil is from the Bt cotton seed.
Sanu Vallante, however, is one of
few farmers that are still planting conventional cotton. He
added that the high cost of the Bt cotton seed has prevented him
from making the switch.
Bt cotton seeds cost 56 U.S.
dollars for 12 kilograms while conventional seeds cost less than
two dollars for 30 kgs.
Burkina Faso is currently working
closely with seed producers to ensure that the price reduces so
that more farmers can embrace the new technology.
However, the African farmers who
have embraced Bt cotton are reaping the gains of the
SOFITEX is one of the three
cotton companies in Burkina Faso. They produce high quality
seeds for farmers.
also train farmers on the agronomic practices so as to
increase yields,” SOFITEX Researcher Tianhoun Casimir said. He
noted that Burkina Faso currently has a problem satisfying
demand of the Bt cotton seeds.
Casimir said that up to 60
percent of all cotton grown in Burkina is now GM cotton.
Burkina Faso’s National Cotton
Producers Union (UNPCB) President Karim Traore said that Bt
cotton has revolutionized the rural landscape of the country.
average, cotton yields have increased by 20 percent as a
result of less pest damage,” he said.
Burkina Faso’s Environment and
Agriculture Research Institute Entomologists Omer Hema said that
the Burkina Faso still needs to grow some conventional cotton.
want between 60 and 80 percent of cotton cultivated be
transgenic, while the rest should be conventional cotton,” he
will prevent the pests from developing resistance to the
biotech cotton,” he said.
African scientists are now
working on developing cotton varieties that are resistant to
herbicides as the crop is affected by weeds.
Ugandan legislator Oleru Huda
said that her country is ready to embrace biotech crops so as to
improve the agricultural sector’s productivity.
Zambia Cotton Development Trust
Acting Director lwisya Silwimba said that cotton growing in the
Southern African Nation has been affected by pests.
are therefore conducting research so that we can introduce
improved cotton varieties,” he said. Kenya’s Baringo County
which is located in the north central region of the country
was once a cotton producing area.
farmers abandoned the crop due to low farm gate prices as well
as high pest damage,” the County’s Deputy Governor Mathew
Bt cotton is commercialized in Kenya we will embrace it,” he
Common Market for Eastern and
South Africa (COMESA) Senior Policy Advisor Getachew Belay said
that adoption of modern agricultural biotechnology is one avenue
to ensure Africa achieves food security.
Sudan’s Agriculture Research
Corporation Director of Technology Transfer Asim Abu-Sarra said
that his country commercialized biotech cotton in 2012.
then over 90 percent of all cotton cultivated is transgenic.
This shows that our farmers are accepting this new technology
due to its benefits,” Abu-Sarra said.