National Cotton Council Chairman Woods Eastland listed a chronology of events of the efforts leading up to the announcement of the West African Cotton Improvement Program in Burkina Faso.
In June 2004, then NCC Chairman Woody Anderson, a Texas producer, participated in a Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Technology in Burkina Faso and traveled to its cotton growing areas with a U.S. delegation. During the conference, a memorandum of understanding between USDA and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation was signed with the intent of accelerating the transfer and dissemination of technologies developed by USDA scientists to West African researchers and the region's farmers. The West African ministers attending the ministerial adopted a resolution that 1) called for greater research and investment in agricultural biotechnology and 2) recommended the creation of a West African center for biotechnology.
In July 2004, the NCC helped organize U.S. cotton industry orientation sessions and a tour of U.S. cotton production, processing, marketing and research facilities for these West African countries' ambassadors and ministers. They explored ways in which West Africa can modernize its cotton industries. Immediately following its U.S. Cotton Belt tour, the West African contingent met in Washington, D.C., with U.S. cotton industry representatives to discuss investment needs and opportunities, and with U.S. government officials to discuss a range of available technical assistance and capacity building programs.
In October 2004, a team of government and cotton industry technical advisors toured several of the West African countries to assess needs and identify both short and long-term opportunities for cooperative efforts and assistance. That tour included Bill Norman, NCC's vice president of Ginner Services.
In January 2005, a high-level U.S. government delegation traveled to Mali to address developmental aspects of the West African cotton industry. The delegation was comprised of officials from USDA, the State Department, US-AID and the NCC. Discussions focused on cooperative project proposals designed to help West African cotton farmers improve their crops by more effective use of fertilizers, water management, biotechnology and integrated pest management.
In June 2005, cotton classing officials from four West African countries participated in a cotton classification and standards training program co-sponsored by the NCC and organized and funded in cooperation with the USDA Cochran Fellowship Program and US-AID. The West African officials received an orientation to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service cotton classification and standards program, including High Volume Instrumentation classification procedures, calibration standards and other USDA-AMS cotton program functions. While in Memphis, they participated in the Cotton Incorporated Engineered Fiber Selection conference, observed the Universal Cotton Standards conference and received a NCC orientation.
US-AID and NCC, along with Tuskegee University, implemented a two-week training session on integrated pest management with entomologists from the West African region. These scientists are learning ways to incorporate technologies that will foster adoption of integrated pest management principals in cotton production. Training on soil conservation and fertility also is a part of this program.