Tanzanian Cotton & Textiles Sector

Rapidly creating tens of thousands of decent textiles jobs while ensuring more than 500,000 cotton farmers can access the quality inputs and training they need to increase yields, boost quality and raise incomes.

Tanzanian Cotton & Textiles Sector
Tanzanian Cotton & Textiles Sector
Tanzanian Cotton & Textiles Sector
Tanzanian Cotton & Textiles Sector
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A big number of people earn their living from cotton, so if you talk about poverty alleviation, if you strengthen the cotton industry, it will contribute greatly.
Marco Mtunga, Director General of the Tanzania Cotton Board

The Opportunity

Across the world, textiles industries have repeatedly been engines for development, kickstarting periods of rapid job creation and economic growth. Wages in textiles sectors across Asia are rising – particularly in China, which is predicted to shed millions of labour-intensive manufacturing jobs in the coming years.

This presents a huge - albeit short-term - opportunity for countries with competitive labour costs and other conducive conditions to attract new investment, transfer in technology, and create tens and thousands of jobs.

Tanzania is well-placed to take advantage of this opportunity. Moreover, the cotton & textiles sector has further poverty-reducing potential, given that more than 500,000 smallholders - concentrated in some of the poorest and least fertile regions of Tanzania - grow cotton.


In cotton, we want to triple the incomes of up to 500,000 cotton farmers and secure greater profitability for cotton ginners, leading to a substantial increase in cotton lint production with greater domestic value addition and higher exports.

In textiles/apparel, we aim to support Tanzania to develop the right infrastructure, business environment and local skills to increase foreign and domestic investment along the value chain. This includes supporting existing local textiles and apparel businesses, including SMEs, to improve skills, productivity and competitiveness.


Securing this vision could have huge impacts on Tanzania’s citizens and its economy, including:

  • Lifting 650,000 people out of poverty in cotton-growing areas by doubling household incomes from the current US$540 per year
  • Creating 50,000 decent textile and garment jobs by 2030
  • Increasing textile and garment export revenues six-fold to US$800 million by 2030

Our programme

Gatsby has worked in cotton & textiles in Tanzania since 2007, with some significant successes. For example, in the 2018/19 season, after a decade of work, improved seed called UKM08 was rolled out to every cotton farmer. This boosted the sector’s income by an estimated US$40 million – split evenly between farmers and processors.

Our Cotton & Textile Development Programme is now working with key partners - including the Tanzania Cotton Board and the Ministry of Trade and Industry - and focusing on:

Supporting Simiyu Region's Cotton Strategy

The Programme has helped Simiyu Region - where 50% of Tanzania's cotton is produced - to develop a Cotton Transformation Strategy, and is now supporting implementation. Exciting technology-based solutions are playing a lead role and success could offer a model for the whole industry to replicate.

Increasing farmers' access to improved inputs

The Programme has developed a village based agro-dealer network that has supplied inputs to more than 160,000 farmers. It is also helping commercial companies reach more farmers with services such as agro-chemical spraying.

Supporting stakeholders to develop a sustainable seed system

Having helped roll-out improved seed across the industry, the Programme is supporting government and other stakeholders to develop a sustainable seed system strategy that would protect the pipeline of future seed varieties and deliver more certified and delinted seed.

Enhancing sector coordination and good governance

The Programme is helping enable well-evidenced and effective dialogue between public and private players on resource allocations, and supporting the review and formulation of appropriate development frameworks.

Increasing investment in textiles/apparel

The Programme is supporting investment promotion agencies, convening key stakeholders, and building business cases for new investments, including by identifying serviced land.

Building skills and improving productivity in textiles/apparel

The Programme is co-funding pilot projects on building workers' skills and improving productivity, focusing on existing local textiles and apparel businesses, including SMEs.

Before, I had little food or money and limited business skills – now I have invested in my own farm, have a house with 6 rooms and have attended relevant trainings. I am now trusted by the local community.
Adamu M, a village-based agro-dealer supported by Gatsby in Shinyanga


    The Programme enabled the development, multiplication and distribution of improved UKM08 seed, resulting in 100% coverage in the 18/19 season (ending September 2019).
    For the first time, all cotton farmers were brought onto a registration system, providing a foundation for future service delivery models.
    The programme has developed a commercial village-based agro-dealer network from scratch. More than 500 self-employed input dealers - linked into the supply chains and distribution system of large agri-input companies - have now achieved estimated combined sales of $13.8m across the Lake Zone to 160,000 farmers.
    A Hong Kong-based textile and garment manufacturer signed an MoU to invest in the Benjamin William Mkapa Special Economic Zone in Dar es Salaam. It is expected to start operations in
    2021, growing to 7,000 employees and US$12m of exports. A Turkish investor also announced it wanted to relocate its garments operation from Turkey to Simiyu region.
    The programme organised and co-financed training for Tanzanian supervisors at Mazava Fabrics. This improved technical and leadership skills and increased the factory’s productivity, with other firms now seeking to draw in such training in future.