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Picking Cotton in Modern Day Africa

African Cotton Economy

Cotton is King in Benin






Picking Cotton in Modern Day Africa


Where is Benin



Present day Benin was the site of Dahomey, a West African kingdom that raised to prominence in about 1600 and over the next 250 years became a regional power, largely based on its slave trade.

Benin is located in Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo. Benin is slightly smaller than Pennsylvania. The languages of Benin include French the official language, Fon and Yoruba, and numerous tribal languages.


The population of Benin is mainly located in the south, with the highest concentration of Beninese people living in and around the cities on the Atlantic coast. Most of the north of Benin remains sparsely populated with higher concentrations of residents in the west. Nevertheless, no matter Beninese people live, almost half the population is dependent on cotton to earn a living.


Cotton in Benin



The economy of Benin is dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade.
Benin cotton
The economy of Benin is dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. An insufficient electrical supply continues to adversely affect Benin's economic growth though the government recently has taken steps to increase domestic power production.

Benin, which was a leading global producer of cotton between 2004 and 2006, has since experienced a sharp fall in production. Cotton exports have not been able to recover its former output levels.

The Benin government has also taken over the export of cotton and cottonseed. After a difficult period, production is now once again getting under way, but with output likely to be below Benin’s glory days as King of Cotton.


Picking Cotton


In Benin, large cotton plantations or farms are dedicated to growing cotton. Picking cotton in Benin without machinery is very hot, hard, physical work where women work the same hours as men. At harvest time, pickers are expected to pick a certain amount of cotton each day or they do not earn enough money to support their families. Most work as field hands on cotton plantations. Today raw cotton is processed in the state's grain mills which the picker must pay for the use of the mill.

Cotton pickers can work in the fields from sunrise to sunset and at harvest time; they might work an 18-hour day. At harvest time, the cotton bolls are collected into large sacks and weighed. A good picker can harvest 100-300 pounds of cotton in a day. This size of harvest would consist of one-third fibers and two-thirds seeds. Harvesting is mechanized today on some larger farms.


Cotton is still King in the African country of Benin, cotton accounts for nearly 40 percent of the country's revenue. Cotton provides an income to roughly three million people however; cotton productivity and profitability have declined in recent years due, in part, to poor governmental management practices and piracy against commercial shipping in its territory off the Port of Cotonou.

Nigna Latifa and Dadjan Wassinatou carrying harvested cotton to be deseeded. Burkina Faso, Africa.

Cotton in Benin Africa Three Facts



Cotton is Benin’s most important cash crop.

Cotton is highly susceptible to pests such as cotton bollworm, and more pesticides are used on it per unit than on any other crop. Organic farming is catching on but relies on farmers rotating their crops, which takes time, and monitoring insects.

Cotton has mainly been farmed in Benin using agrochemicals including, in some cases, the banned insecticide endosulfan, to raise yields.

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