Bono highlights trade reform during visit to Mali, meets with Oxfam cotton partners

U2 frontman Bono is touring Mali this week, winding down a nine-day trip to Africa focused on aid, trade, and debt relief.

On Monday night (22 May), NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams will follow Bono as he meets with cotton farmers to talk about agriculture subsidies and how they affect cotton prices in Africa.

Oxfam is campaigning to reform agriculture subsidies that make it impossible for small-scale farmers to make a decent living.

The US government pays large producers massive farm payments. These producers then grow too much and dump their surpluses overseas at less than the cost of production. Poor farmers in countries like Mali, Benin, and Senegal can't compete with the low prices.

Bono will visit the Bougouni region of Mali to hear first-hand from cotton farmers trying to protect their livelihoods. In total, about 10 million people in West and Central Africa depend on cotton for their survival.

In Mali, a typical cotton farmer cultivates about five acres of cotton, and earns less than $1 a day or $280 annually. With this income, that farmer must educate and clothe his family, pay for their healthcare, and reinvest in the farm to prepare for next years harvest.

In 2005, the World Trade Organization ruled that the US had broken international trade rules by handing out millions of dollars to US cotton producers each year. Since then, the government has taken minimal steps to reform its policies. You can do something. Sign the Big Noise, Oxfam's global petition to help poor people and Make Trade Fair.