Ethical cotton production in Kenya

The partnership aims to establish ethical cotton production in Kenya. With cotton production having been successfully piloted since 2014, the objective of this partnership is to accelerate production to include more of the 90,000 smallholder farmers in Kwale County, Kenya, many of whom currently live in extreme poverty.

The partnership assists Kwale smallholders to produce ethical cotton for supply to the Cotton On Group. Women are encouraged to access the program, either directly as landowners or by assuming responsibility for the cotton crop on their family’s smallholding. Base Titanium is investigating the potential for cotton farming to improve the economic transition of communities once mining activities cease.

Progress update

January 2018

Cotton production expanded as planned in 2017. A growing number of farmers, including new lead farmers and field assistants, were active across 1,400 farms. Partners received support from government agricultural organisations, extension services, banks and advisers to assist with farmer recruitment, finance and technical advice for growing, selling and harvesting cotton. Trials in processing the cotton seed by-product for poultry feed proved successful.

Key activities

  • Additional farmers were recruited and trained in planting crops across 1,400 sites in Kwale and Lamu, with six farmers from the 2016 program selected and trained as mentors. Training included site preparation and planting, safe use of fertilisers, sprays and pest control, cotton harvesting, storage and grading.
  • Farmers were grouped into regional clusters of 25-30 members per cluster, and supported by a field assistant. Cluster members joined their local cooperatives which provided access to finance and advice.
  • Kenyan Government agricultural organisations assisted partners with farmer recruitment and technical assistance. The assistance expanded production, improved soil analysis methods, and revised chemical usage to increase efficiency and deliver cost savings.
  • Cotton pricing and trading discussions took place with buyers.
  • Cotton seed by-product was successfully trialled for use as poultry feed, which increases the value of an otherwise low value by-product, and therefore raises farmer incomes further.

July 2017

Despite the impact of disappointing rainfall in 2016, sufficient high quality cotton was harvested and exported by Business for Development (B4D) to Bangladesh to be able to be made into garments by CottonOn. The garments are anticipated to appear in stores in early 2018.

Key activities

  • Oversight and support of the harvest, ginning and export of cotton alongside the local cotton growers association.
  • Supported the processing of cotton-seed by-product into a range of locally produced poultry feed for small producers.
  • Supported the expansion of cotton production for the 2017 season following discussions with the Kenyan Government in Lamu and Kwale counties.
  • Weather and rainfall conditions in Kwale and Lamu have been favourable and a strong harvest is expected.

Partnership aims

  • Boost private sector activity in agriculture, and improve the functioning of markets and agricultural value chains.
  • Assess the impact of post mining economic activity and employment opportunities for local people.
  • Promote stability, economic growth and poverty reduction in Kwale.


Private sector funding


DFAT funding


Total Value



Start: June 2016

End: March 2018

Industry sector



The partnership ensures smallholder farmers interested in growing cotton are equipped with the skills and training required to produce commercial quality cotton for sale into export markets and global supply chains, securing local livelihoods and the future success of the cotton industry in Kenya.

Shared value

Shared value is defined as policies and practices that enhance the competitiveness of companies while improving social and environmental conditions in the regions where they operate. It is a business strategy focused on companies creating measurable economic benefit by identifying and addressing social problems that intersect with their business. To qualify as shared value, there must be an identifiable economic benefit to the company as well as measurable impact on a social or environmental issue.

The BPP is helping businesses partner with the Australian aid program in achieving shared value – advancing both social and economic objectives. These partnerships are primarily being created in one or more of the following ways:

  • Reconceiving products and/or markets
  • Redefining productivity in the value chain
  • Enabling local cluster development
Base Titanium two young girls with cotton

Redefining productivity in the value-chain

The targeted beneficiaries, who live in poverty with household incomes under USD2.00/day, have access to small landholdings of five and a half acres each, predominantly used for year round subsistence food production. Approximately half an acre is used for the household’s living area, with the remaining land used for traditional crop locations. Farmers will be encouraged, and appropriately trained, to include cotton in one acre of the rotation for commercial purposes.

Base Titanium male cotton farmer Kenya

Enabling local cluster development

The partnership approach will include local institutions, downstream actors, communities, associations and local government as key partners. As the initiative expands, additional organisations may join the partnership or new partnerships may develop in different areas. Increasing capacity to deliver services to its members is a key aim of the farmer cooperative, in addition to encouraging local entrepreneurs to start small businesses to deliver farmer support services.

Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

Women are actively encouraged to participate as landowners and farmers. Growing and selling their cotton will contribute to women’s economic empowerment within the community. Gender specific training and mentoring is provided where appropriate to encourage women’s participation. Gender and social inclusion training will be conducted with the Kwale Farmer Cooperative Board, management and staff team. Women are encouraged to seek decision-making positions of authority and leadership within the Cooperative’s management team, governance structure and elected Board of Directors.

Partner information

The partnership is between Base Titanium Limited, Cotton On Group, Business for Development (B4D) and DFAT.

Base Titanium Limited

Base Titanium two women in cotton field  

Base Titanium 

Base Titanium Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Base Resources, which operates the 100% owned Kwale Mineral Sands Operations in Kenya. Base Resources plan to assist the development of the agricultural sector and economy in Kenya starting in Kwale County through this initiative. Base Titanium Limited, in addition to being lead partner, are also providing the majority of private sector financing for this partnership.

Cotton On Group

Base Titanium woman in cotton field smiling  

Cotton On Group 

Cotton On is Australia’s largest value fashion group, with eight brands in over 1300 retail stores in 17 countries. The Cotton On Group is focused on building an ethical sustainable and profitable business and ensuring they have a positive impact on their people, the community and the planet. Cotton On is providing additional funding and market access for the partnership. Cotton On have committed to purchasing the lint cotton produced by the farmers in Kwale into their global supply chain. Cotton On will purchase the cotton produced at a fair market price, and support the partnership with program compliance audits.

Business for Development (B4D)

Base Titanium young girl in cotton field smiling  


B4D is an independent, not-for-profit organisation tackling extreme poverty through inclusive business. B4D catalyse, coordinate and co-create inclusive business ventures and pro-poor value chains. They provide expertise in designing and implementing partnerships between the private sector, other sector partners and local communities, and are experienced in developing and implementing inclusive business models.

Last Updated: 30 January 2018