Cotton farming can thrive with mitumba

In Summary

• Whether mitumba undermines local cotton farmers and factories has become a hot election issue

• In neighbouring Uganda, cotton farming is flourishing side by side with mitumba

Bales of mitumba/FILE
Bales of mitumba/FILE
Image: FILE

Earlier this week Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga sparked controversy when he appeared to call for a crackdown on mitumba to boost the local cotton industry.

Mitumba has given the population the chance to dress fashionably and affordably. Like it or not, the average Kenya is better dressed today with mitumba than before economic liberalisation  started 40 years ago.

It is also a false assumption that mitumba was responsible for the collapse of the cotton sector in Kenya. Used clothes are as widely sold in Uganda but the cotton industry has recovered to almost pre-Idi Amin levels. It is not an either-or situation with mitumba and cotton farming.

Uganda has a liberalised cotton sector lightly regulated by the Cotton Development Organisation. Farmers get paid cash for raw cotton delivered to private ginneries that enjoy zonal licences. Over 90 percent of Ugandan cotton is exported while the rest goes to local textile manufacturers.

So let's not fall into the trap of saying that mitumba undermines cotton farming and local textile factories. We can still have the best of both worlds where we keep mitumba and increase cotton production.

Quote of the day: “Remember, upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”

Alexander the Great
The Macedonian king died on June 10, 323 BC