Dougourakoroni Cotton Producers Co-operative, Mali

About the co-operative

Location: Kita, southwest Mali
Founded: 1996
Number of producers: 169, including 65 women
Farm size: 7 hectares/17 acres
Annual Production: (81 members, 2003/04)
Cotton Growing
© Simon Rawles


The Kita region was traditionally the centre of peanut production until drought and disease badly hit production in Mali and other Sahel countries in the early 1980s. Production in Mali slumped to its lowest level in 1992/93, causing poverty and hardship in peanut growing communities. Cotton was introduced by a local NGO as an alternative cash crop and in January 1995 the Compagnie Malienne pour le Développement des Textiles (CMDT) began promoting cotton production in the region on behalf of the Government of Mali.

Mali’s cotton production has grown from 500,000 tonnes in 1997 to a record 635,000 tonnes in 2003, making Mali the largest cotton producer on the African continent. Production fell slightly to 600,000 tonnes in 2004 and 20051.

Forty percent of the rural population of Mali is now dependant on cotton production, with several hundred thousand people growing cotton on 200,000 farms. Over 150,000 square kilometres of land in the south of Mali are planted with cotton, including the whole of Sikasso region, parts of Segou and Koulikoro regions and the area around the town of Kita where Dougourakoroni co-operative is located.

Dougourakoroni Cotton Producers Co-operative

The co-operative was founded in 1996 with the aim of improving the living standards of its members through the production of cotton. The main problems faced by producers in the region are low incomes, lack of agricultural equipment and mills for grinding cereals, poor access to clean water, and poor infrastructure such as roads, health centres, and education – around 30% of parents can’t afford to send their children to school.

The co-op has since grown from 81 to 169 members. The average farm is 7 hectares in size with 1.3 hectares under cotton, producing around 1,000kg of cotton a year. The farmers grow and harvest seed cotton – the cotton boll which consists of seeds with the fibre attached. The ginning process separates the seed cotton into cotton fibre (or lint) and cotton seeds, which are used for oil or fodder. Cotton is the only cash crop in the area and farmers also grow millet, sorghum, maize and peanuts on a subsistence level. Cotton is grown in rotation with these crops to protect soil fertility and production relies on rainfall rather than artificial irrigation.

The Dougourakoroni Co-operative comprises a General Assembly and a seven-member Board. The co-op provides access to loans, technical advice and agricultural training. It supplies agricultural inputs and oversees commercial activities. Workshops are also organised where knowledge and experience are shared with non-members.

A main function of the co-op is to collect the members’ harvested cotton, weigh and classify it according to quality, then store it all together in guarded village warehouses. At this point the cotton is purchased by CMDT, which has a monopoly on cotton purchasing in Mali. The cotton is collected by CMDT lorries, transported to the ginning factory and processed ready for sale to national or export markets, while the cotton seeds are sold to local oil mills.

CMDT was founded by the Government of Mali in 1974 to co-ordinate production and commercialisation in the cotton sector. It is now owned 60:40 by the government and French company DAGRIS (Développement des Agro-Industries du Sud), which was instrumental in facilitating the introduction of Fairtrade cotton in France.

CMDT negotiates the annual farm gate cotton price with the National Union of Cotton Producers2 and provides essential support to all cotton producers in Mali in the form of technical advice (such as the use of pesticides and soil protection), transport, ginning, and local and export marketing. It also organises workshops for Fairtrade certified co-ops such as Dougourakoroni to ensure that all members understand how Fairtrade works.


Fairtrade and Dougourakoroni Co-operative

When Fairtrade standards3 for seed cotton were set in 2003, Mali was one of the countries identified as a potential producer partner. The National Union of Cotton Producers supported Dougourakoroni Co-operative’s application for Fairtrade certification because of the high quality of its cotton.

The co-operative was inspected and certified in 2004, following which it appointed two quality controllers to ensure compliance with Fairtrade standards. It now exports part of its production under the conditions guaranteed by international Fairtrade standards:

  • The guaranteed Fairtrade minimum price paid to producers covers production and living costs
  • The additional Fairtrade Premium is for investment in agreed community development projects such as drilling wells and constructing or improving schools and clinics
  • Sustainable agricultural production methods are employed, including environmental protection and ongoing reduction in the use of agrochemicals
  • Non-discrimination and equality of opportunity for all members and workers
  • Democratic and transparent management structures are in place
  • Pre-finance of up to 60% of the value of the contract is available on request
  • Fairtrade registered buyers make a commitment to long-term, stable relationships with producers.

Impact of Fairtrade

Members receive the guaranteed Fairtrade minimum farm gate price of FCFA4 238/kg compared to the national base price of FCFA 160 for 2005/065 (FCFA 200 in 2003/04; FCFA 210 in 2004/05). In addition, the co-op receives the Fairtrade premium of FCFA 34/kg to invest in community development projects.

A Premium Committee of elected members decides on the projects to be funded by the premium. The first projects include the construction in 2005 of one school and a block of three classrooms for the children of Dougourakoroni village6. Before this the children were taught outdoors under a tree which meant lessons were cancelled during bad weather. The premium has also been used to build dry and secure warehouses by Dougourakoroni co-op and their neighbour Batimakana Co-operative, which is also Fairtrade certified.

The Premium Committee has identified several priority projects to be funded by the Fairtrade Premium:

  • Drilling wells to improve access to clean water
  • Building a health centre and nursery school
  • Building a soap factory to provide employment and an alternative source of income
  • Provision of agricultural equipment for members
  • Increasing literacy programmes and providing vocational training
  • Expanding maize production to ensure self-sufficiency within the local area.

Wider Impacts

Fairtrade certification also has indirect impacts on producers. Dougourakoroni Co-operative is affiliated to UC-CPC ‘Danaya Ton’ de Djidian, a union of 20 co-operatives in the Kita area set up in 2005. Sixteen of them have recently been Fairtrade certified and regularly come together to discuss how to improve and strengthen the way they operate. They have joined a rural management centre and plan to create a central body to simplify the certification process and to make access to Fairtrade easier for other village co-operatives.

Over a period of time, the additional income, improved market knowledge and access to Fairtrade networks can have a positive effect on capacity building – e.g. strengthening the co-ops’ commercial and administrative procedures. As well as compliance with Fairtrade entry-level standards, producer groups are committed to putting in place additional ongoing programmes that increase sustainability through improved agricultural methods, quality control, environmental protection and social development.

Mali Economy & Background Data7

Mali's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $250 (2003) places it among the world's 10 poorest nations. Its potential wealth lies in mining and the production of agricultural commodities, livestock, and fish.

Agricultural activities occupy 70% of Mali's labour force and provide 36% of the GDP. Cotton, gold, and livestock made up 80%-90% of total export earnings in Mali in 2003. Small-scale traditional farming dominates the agricultural sector, with subsistence farming - of cereals, primarily sorghum, millet, and maize - on about 90% of the 1.4 million hectares (3.4 million acres) under cultivation.

The high cost of petroleum products, the fall in the world market price for cotton and gold, and corresponding loss of customs revenues put pressure on the economy and led the government to be very restrictive on cash disbursements in recent years. In addition, the 2002-03 closure of the main import/export route to the port of Abidjan increased the pressure on the fragile Malian economy. Nonetheless, a doubling of cotton production and double-digit increases in cereal and gold production boosted real GDP growth from 3.5% in 2001 to nearly 7.4% in 2003.


GDP (2003): $4.79bn.
Average annual growth rate (2003-04): 5.4%
Per capita income (2003): $250
Annual skilled worker's salary: $1,560
Average inflation rate (2003): -1.3%
Workforce (4 million) – agriculture: 70%; services:15%; industry & commerce:15%.

Agriculture, livestock, and fishery

(36% of GDP) – Products: millet, sorghum, corn, rice, livestock, sugar, cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), and tobacco.


(22% of GDP) - Types: food processing, textiles, cigarettes, fish processing, metalworking, light manufacturing, plastics, and beverage bottling.

Natural resources

Gold, phosphate, kaolin, salt, and limestone currently mined; deposits of bauxite, iron ore, manganese, lithium, and uranium are known or suspected.

Trade (2003)

Exports - $1.06bn: gold, cotton and cotton products, animals, fish, tannery products, groundnuts, and diamonds. Major markets: France, Switzerland, Italy, Thailand, Cote d'Ivoire, and Algeria.
Imports - $951m: food, machinery and spare parts, vehicles, petroleum products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, textiles. Major suppliers: France, Cote d'Ivoire, Belgium, Luxembourg, US, Germany, and Japan.

Republic of Mali

Area: 1.24 million square kilometres
Population: 10.5 million (estimated 2002)
Capital: Bamako
Head of State: President Amadou Toumani Touré (inaugurated June 2002)
Currency: CFA Franc
Languages: French (official), Bambara (main dialect spoken by 80% of population)
Religion: 90% Muslim, 6% indigenous, 4% Christian
Primary school attendance: 64.3%
Literacy: 31%
Infant mortality rate: 121 per 1,000
Life expectancy: 47 years.

[ 1 ] UN FAO statistical database,
[ 2 ] Syndicat National des Producteurs de Coton.
[ 3 ] Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO) is responsible for setting Fairtrade standards, certifying producer organisations and auditing the flow of goods between producers and importers in the 20 markets where Fairtrade labels operate. Details at
[ 4 ] Franc Communauté Financière Africaine
[ 5 ] Government of Mali Letter of Intent & Technical MoU,
[ 6 ]
[ 7 ] US State Department,

Fairtrade Foundation 2006

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