Cotton field.

ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes:Agriculture:Farming types in Africa:Cotton farming in Zimbabwe

Growing conditions and growing area

  • Zimbabwe is the largest producer of the crop in Africa south of the Sahara.
  • A bush crop grown in summer using dry land farming.
  • Rainfall at least 600 mm in the growing season.
  • Temperature wide tolerance but must exceed 21°C at ripening. Soils should be deep clayey soils which are the best although black earths would do.
  • Sowing is done at start of rain season.
  • Bush plants grow and weeding is done by hand.
  • Spraying against boll weevils must occur.
  • Picking occurs when balls ripen.
  • 70% of the lint is exported. 49% comes from communal farmers.
  • After harvesting, the plants are burnt to kill all pests.

Processing and marketing

  • After picking the cotton is packed in bales.
  • The bales are collected by lorries to depots established by the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco).
  • The cotton is sold as lint or seed the sale being controlled by Cottco.
  • Lint is used to make clothes, blankets and furniture fabrics in the textile industry while seed is used to manufactured vegetable oil and livestock protein cake.
  • Both lint and seed are also exported for foreign currency during this period.


  • Pests particularly weevils and aphids can destroy the crop.
  • Exceptionally long, wet seasons spoil the crop as sunshine and heat are necessary for ripening.
  • Competition is stiff from wool, silk and synthetic fibres from oil and coal.
  • In a country like Zimbabwe, cotton picking is done manually, requiring a lot of contract labour.
  • Some farmers do not burn stalks at prescribed times, leading to outbreaks of diseases.


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