The Farm Fight

It's not easy farming cotton in Africa. Just ask Bafing Diarra, 47, who owns slightly less than 25 acres near the village of Korokoro in Mali in West Africa. His headaches are endless: low- yielding seeds from Mali's government-controlled cotton company, boll weevils that this season resisted five applications of pesticides; capricious weather; a lack of equipment, which forces him to pick his cotton by hand in the scorching heat; even monkeys, which occasionally get into the fields and pry open the bolls to get at the sweet water trapped inside.

By far, the biggest problem Diarra faces,...

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