Sustainable Cotton Production Reaches New Levels as Two Million Farmers Receive Training on Improved Farming Practices

 
Today, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) revealed in its 2018 Annual Report that Better Cotton – cotton produced in line with the initiative’s Better Cotton Principles and Criteria – now accounts for 19% of global cotton production*.

In the 2017-18 cotton season, together with our 69 on-the-ground partners and with support from 1,4000 members, BCI provided training on sustainable agricultural practices to more than two million cotton farmers in 21 countries(more than 99% of BCI Farmers are smallholders, farming on less than 20 hectares of land). This drove the volume of more sustainably produced cotton available on the global market to a new level.

By 2020, BCI aims to support 5 million cotton farmers in adopting more sustainable agricultural practices and improving their livelihoods. To do this, we focus on the diverse social, environmental and economic challenges faced by cotton farmers around the world, from drought in Australia to flooding in China and gender equality in Pakistan.

Our comprehensive programme of training, practical demonstrations and knowledge-sharing helps farmers to raise their yields, reduce their impacts on the environment and improve working conditions. We address multiple environmental issues – from soil health and pesticide use to water stewardship – and raise awareness of the importance of Decent Work, focusing in particular on promoting women’s empowerment and preventing child labour,” says Alan McClay, CEO at BCI.

At the opposite end of the supply chain, BCI’s Retailer and Brand Members such as Hennes & Mauritz AB, IKEA Supply AG, Gap Inc., adidas AG, and Nike Inc.passed an important milestoneat the end of 2018, sourcing more than one million metric tonnes of Better Cotton– a record for BCI. That’s a 45% increase on 2017 and sends a clear signal to the market that Better Cotton is becoming a sustainable mainstream commodity.BCI’s demand-driven funding model means that retailer and brand sourcing of Better Cotton directly translates into increased investment in training for cotton farmers on more sustainable practices.

Better Cotton uptake now accounts for 4% of global cotton consumption.This progress has moved BCI closer to our2020 target to see 10% of global cotton sourced as Better Cotton.

This historic level of Better Cotton uptake is an encouraging indicator of how well BCI is progressing toward our five 2020 targets,” says McClay.

Back in 2012, the BCI Council laid down a formidable challenge to all BCI Members, Partners, stakeholders and staff with the publication of five ambitious targets for 2020. The BCI Council asked us to demonstrate that multiple stakeholders, working together, can shift a global system so that sustainability becomes the mainstream. In the BCI 2018 Annual Report, we share the progress we’ve collectively made towards achieving these five targets.

Explore the complete BCI 2018 Annual Report on the interactive reportmicrosite. A PDF version is available for download.

Thank you to all of our committed stakeholders, who, by supporting and participating in BCI, are developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity and driving change.

*The percentage has been calculated using ICAC’s 2018 global production figures.

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Q&A with Sarob, Better Cotton Implementing Partner in Tajikistan

 
Cooperative Sarob is BCI’s Implementing Partner in Tajikistan. We caught up with Tahmina Sayfullaeva to discuss the organisation’s progress to date.

Tell us about your organisation.

Sarob is an organisation of agronomists providing agricultural consultation to cotton farmers in Tajikistan. Our goal is the comprehensive development of agriculture through capacity building, improving access to the market and ensuring cotton farmers have the necessary agricultural inputs. As part of our work we provide theoretical and practical training and help farmers to implement new technologies and machinery through demonstrations in the field.

Tell us about Cooperative Sarob’s partnership with the Better Cotton Initiative and the progress made to date.

In 2013, Sarob decided to join BCI in order create better conditions for cotton production, increase cotton yields and provide cotton farmers with access to a new international market for Better Cotton. We had the support of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Framework and Finance for Private Sector Development (FFPSD) to implement BCI programmes in Tajikistan. In 2017 we worked with 1,263 licensed BCI Farmers covering an area of 17,552 hectares. BCI Farmers are grouped into four Producers Units in the Khatlon and Sughd regions and smallholder farmers are organised into 103 smaller Learning Groups and trained by 100 Field Facilitators. In the 2016-17 season, BCI Farmers in Tajikistan used on average 3% less water, 63% less pesticides and saw 13% higher yields and a 48% increase in profits compared to comparison farmers.

Do you have a specific sustainability challenge which you are addressing as a priority?

We have a strong focus on water stewardship and efficiency as part of our farm management work in Tajikistan. Our methodology is based on implementing water measurement devices which are easily constructed and are of low cost to farmers. Since 2016 we have worked with The Water Productivity Project (WAPRO), a multi-stakeholder initiative to address water efficiency issues in rice and cotton production in Asia – the initiative is implemented by Helvetas in Tajikistan.

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Cross-Country Cotton Collaboration: Cotton Australia Working with Pakistani and Indian Farmers

 
In 2017 the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Australia funded three BCI projects in Pakistan, with the aim of improving access to global cotton markets for Pakistani farmers. Under the project umbrella, the Better Cotton Initiative and Cotton Australia, the body for Australia’s cotton producers, collaborated on a new model of sharing cotton production best practices. The project sought to create an effective knowledge exchange between Australian and Pakistani farmers and to improve the global reputation of cotton.

As part of the project, in April this year, Dr. Shafiq Ahmad, BCI Country Manager Pakistan; Bilal Khan, a progressive cotton farmer from Pakistanand BCI Council Member; Dr. Saghir Ahmad, Director at the Cotton Research Institute in Multan, Pakistan; and Rajesh Kumar, a Better Cotton Producer Unit Manager from India, attended Cotton Australia’s annual farm tour.

Alongside representatives of Australian fashion and retail brands such as Country Road Group, Hanes, Jeanswest, RM Williams and Sportscraft, the group visited cotton farms, a cotton gin, a seed production facility, and the Cotton Research and Development Corporation. They also met with farmers, agronomists and consultants to discuss cotton production technology and whitefly management.

Australian farmers shared their knowledge on:

  • Traditional cultivation vs. mechanised farming;
  • Better crop management;
  • Use of technology to increase sustainability in cotton production;
  • Management of whitefly and other cotton pests;
  • Cotton research and development; and
  • Cotton seed production, processing and distribution.

Dr. Shafiq Ahmad believes there are many benefits to cross-country knowledge sharing projects. ”This trip has opened up many new opportunities. We’ve gained valuable insights into more sustainable cotton production, crop management and pest management which we can take away and implement in Pakistan and India. This project has also opened up a new direction for cotton research which will lead to further collaboration between Pakistani and Australian scientists,” he said.

Bilal Khan commented, ”I had a thoroughly educational and enjoyable visit to theAustralian cotton belt. The sophistication of the technology used in Australia is extremely interesting. I would like to express my gratitude to Cotton Australia and BCI for making this trip possible. It will not be long before the benefits of this initiative are realised.”

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