Better Cotton Farmers Achieve a Reduction in Water and Pesticide Use while Increasing Yields and Profits

 
BCI Farmers Demonstrate the Benefits of Implementing more Sustainable Farming Practices

In the 2017-18 cotton season*, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and its on-the-ground partners provided training on more sustainable farming practices to more than two million cotton farmers in 21 countries. Through training, tools and capacity building, BCI Farmers address and tackle pertinent issues in cotton production, from water use to pest management to Decent Work. By implementing the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria, farmers produce cotton in a way that is measurably better for themselves, the environment and farming communities.

Each cotton season, BCI and its partners collect data from BCI Farmers to monitor and assess a range of social, environmental and economic indicators. BCI Farmer results from the 2017-18 cotton season clearly demonstrate the benefits of implementing more sustainable practices around the world.Here are some key highlights from China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.

Social

  • In Turkey, 74% of BCI Farmers had advanced awareness of child labour issues.
  • In Tajikistan, 25% of BCI Farmers trained on health and safety practices were women.

Environmental

  • BCI Farmers in India used 10% less water than comparison farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 17% less synthetic fertiliser than comparison farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Tajikistan used 40% fewer pesticides than comparison farmers.

Economic

  • BCI Farmers in China achieved 14% higher yields than comparison farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan achieved 40% higher profits than comparison farmers.

Access the2017-18 BCI Farmer Results to see how BCI is driving measurable improvements in cotton production.

Note about Comparison Farmers: BCI Farmer Results compare the country averages of key social, environmental and economic indicators achieved by licensed BCI Farmers to non-BCI farmers in the same geographic area who are not participating in the BCI programme. We refer to the latter farmers as Comparison Farmers.

*Cotton is sown and harvested in different annual cycles all over the world. For BCI, the 2017-18 cotton season harvest was completed towards the end of 2018. BCI Farmer results indicator data must be submitted to BCI within 12 weeks of the cotton harvest. All data then goes through a rigorous data cleaning and validation process before it can be published.

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Evidensia: The New Evidence Website Informing Action for a Sustainable Future

 
ISEAL, WWF and Rainforest Alliance have developed a new website, Evidensia, which brings together credible research into the effects and impact of sustainability initiatives to enable more informed decisions.

Credible evidence underpins decision-making and supports businesses and governments in addressing pressing sustainability challenges at scale.Currently, much of the available information on the impacts of sustainability tools is not presented in an easy to understand format that is useful for decision-oriented analysis. This makes it difficult for decision-makers to easily identify and understand what information already exists about the impacts, effectiveness and business value of sustainability initiatives.

To address this challenge, ISEAL, WWF and Rainforest Alliance have developed a new website, Evidensia, which brings together credible research into the effects and impact of sustainability initiatives to enable more informed decisions.

Evidensia is designed to meet the needs of business leaders, policy makers and researchers. It hosts evidence and information on a range of sustainability supply chain tools and approaches, including standards, company sourcing codes and jurisdictional approaches.

The content on the site covers a whole range of sustainability issues, from climate change and deforestation to biodiversity and water conservation. The content is represented in a variety of formats including independent scientific studies, evaluation reports and case studies. It is also easily accessible and usable through a range of searching, filtering and mapping tools.

Having a site that collates this evidence and information makes it possible to clearly identify research gaps and priorities for researchers and funders. This minimises the duplication or misalignment of research efforts.

Through these efforts, Evidensia can help companies and others identify and implement effective mechanisms for sustainable production and sourcing, and will help improve the effectiveness of sustainability tools and approaches.

https://www.evidensia.eco.

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Better Cotton Drives Measurable Improvements in Cotton Production

 
In order to produce and sellBetter Cotton, licensed BCI Farmers adhere to the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria(P&C), addressing topics from water use to pest management to decent work. Implementing the Better Cotton P&C enables farmers to produce cotton in a way that is measurably better for themselves, the environment and farming communities.

Farmer results from the 2016-17 season demonstrate the benefits of implementing more sustainable practices around the world.Here are some key highlights from China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.

Social

  • In Turkey, 83% of BCI Farmers had advanced knowledge of child labour issues.
  • BCI is addressing women’s inclusion, and in China, 37% of farmers who received BCI training on pesticide preparation and use were women.

Environmental

  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan used 20% less water for irrigation than Comparison Farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in India used 17% less synthetic fertiliser than Comparison Farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Tajikistan used 63% less pesticide than Comparison Farmers.

Economic

  • BCI Farmers in China hada 14% higher yield than Comparison Farmers.
  • BCI Farmers in Pakistan had a 37% higher profit than Comparison Farmers.

Access theBCI Farmer Results 2016-17to see how BCI is driving measurable improvements in cotton production.

Comparison Farmers
The BCI Farmer Results presented here compare the country averages of key social, environmental and economic indicators achieved by licensed BCI Farmers to non-BCI farmers in the same geographic area who are not participating in the BCI programme. We refer to the latter farmers as Comparison Farmers.

Talking About Farmer Results Accurately
Farm results must not be manipulated in any way. Averaging farm results across different geographies undermines the credibility of the data. Should you wish to use results pleasecontactthe Communications Team who will help you craft your Better Cotton story in a way that maintains the integrity of the data.

Gujarat, India. BCI Farmer Vinodbhai Patel (left) together with share croppers, working on his farm. © 2018 Florian Lang.

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Better Cotton’s Field-Level Partners Reach More Than 1.5 Million Farmers

Last month the revised Principles and Criteria of the Better Cotton Standard System took effect. But how do we ensure these key principles develop into tangible actions and results for those involved in Better Cotton production?

The answer is field-level partners.

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) does not train cotton farmers directly, instead we work closely with experienced partners in the countries where Better Cotton is grown. We call these field-level partners “Implementing Partners’, IPs for short. Each IP supports a series of Producer Units, which is a grouping of BCI Farmers in the same community or region. Producer Unit Managers oversee the training and support of multiple, smaller groups, known as Learning Groups.

Training is delivered to these smaller Learning Groups by Field Facilitators, these are field-based technicians, often with backgrounds in agronomy, who use practical demonstrations in the field. This training focuses on encouraging farmers to adopt agricultural best practice techniques, in line with the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. At current BCI’s 70 Implementing Partners work with approximately 4,000 Field Facilitators across the globe.

Additionally each Learning Group is co-ordinated by a Lead Farmer, who facilitates training sessions for his or her members, creates regular opportunities to discuss progress and challenges, and encourages best practice in recording results. Through this cascade training process, training will be delivered to more than 1.5 million cotton farmers across 22 countries.

Over the coming months BCI will train IPs across the globe on the revised Better Cotton Standard, using an effective train-the-trainer model in China, India, Pakistan, Mozambique, West Africa, South Africa, Turkey and the US. Distance learning will take place for IPs in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. Training will provide IP staff with essential updates, valuable materials and best-practice suggestions for farmer training activities. Training will be adapted for different country contexts and tailored to address specific country challenges.

Successful training on the revised Better Cotton Principles and Criteria has already been completed for IPs in China. The BCI China Team organised a three-day cross-learning workshop in Lijiang, Yunnan Province for nine Implementing Partners, who together have a combined reach of 80,000 cotton farmers.

The training addressed all seven Better Cotton Principles and Criteria with an enhanced focus on biodiversity, water management and soil health, with training from Dr. Zeng Nan from The Nature Conservancy, Ms. Zhenzhen Xu from the Alliance for Water Stewardship and Dr. Li Wenjuan from Cotton Connect. IPs shared best practices on Integrated Pest Management and farmer capacity building. Mr. Zhang Wenzhong, Manager of BCI IP Nongxi Cotton Cooperatives said, ”I have learned a lot from the [Better Cotton Principles and Criteria] workshop and from other IPs. I’ve worked as an IP for severalyears and I now have even more confidence in successful Better Cotton implementation in the future.”

Explore our Stories from the Field to see how IPs are driving farm-level change.

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Better Cotton releases web-based annual report with interactive features

We are excited to announce the launch of our web-based annual report. The BCI 2015 Annual Report provides the latest updates on global numbers, membership and partnership activities, reviews of organizational progress, and our financial statements. We have also integrated interactive and multimedia content to present 2015 accomplishments in an engaging manner.

Key achievements from 2015 include:

» Farmers produced Better Cotton in 21 countries on five continents.

» BCI reached 1.6 million farmers worldwide, a 23% increase from 2014.

» Licensed BCI farmers produced 2.6 million MT of Better Cotton, up 34% from the previous year.

» Membership and retailer procurement grew by 50% and 115%, respectively.

» We launched a formal review of our standard system to ensure it remains relevant, consistent and accessible.

» BCI and our partners invested almost €12 million through the Better Cotton Fast Track Program (BCFTP), supporting 70 farm projects across eight countries.

The report also includes the following dynamic features:

» A video summarising 2015 highlights.

» Two interactive maps that illustrate Better Cotton country highlights and global reach figures.

» Dynamic graphs detailing membership and procurement growth as well as financial information.

”We thank our partners, funders, members and BCI staff for having played such a crucial role in achieving our goals this year and positioning us to make Better Cotton a responsible mainstream commodity by 2020,’ commented Paola Geremicca, Director of Communications and Fundraising.

BCI will continue to report harvest data through our 2015 Harvest Report that is released on a rolling basis throughout the year when harvest results for each country have been finalised.

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‘Real time’ harvest reporting live on Better Cotton’s website

BCI is excited to announce the launch of our 2015 Harvest Report now online in the form of an interactive map that displays the latest harvest results shortly after Better Cotton is harvested in a country.

Better Cotton is sown and harvested in different annual cycles across the world, which means that harvest data becomes available from different regions throughout the calendar year. When a country’s harvest results are finalised, they will be released on the 2015 Harvest Report map on an ongoing basis. Previously, all the results for a harvest year were compiled into a single report that was released late the following year. By releasing Better Cotton results in a timely manner, we will have more opportunities to share the progress we are making towards improving cotton growing conditions globally.

The 2015 Harvest Report is live on the BCI website and contains the latest Harvest Report for Australia. The report notes that during the 2015 harvest season, Australia’s cotton farmers faced severe drought conditions in many areas, which impacted the amount of water available for irrigation. As a result, farmers planted only 48% of the originally planned area (196,698 Ha. vs. 414,000 Ha.). However, a combination of ideal growing conditions, good farm management practices and use of improved cotton seed varieties contributed to record yields up to 2950 kg (15 bales) per hectare and a total production of 499,400 MT (56% of the 2014 crop). Average yields set a record at 11.5 bales per hectare, up from the previous best of 10.1 bales.

The next Harvest Report to be released will be Mozambique at the end of April.

 

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Pioneer member adidas Group exceeds 2015 Better Cotton target

BCI Pioneer member adidasannounced that in 2015 the company sourced 43% of all its cotton as Better Cotton, exceeding the originally planned 40% target. This marks the highest volume in sustainable cotton used in the company’s history.

”As a pioneer member, the adidas Group has been involved with the Better Cotton Initiative from the very beginning. It is exciting to see how Better Cotton is becoming a sustainable mainstream commodity and we will continue to increase the amount of sustainable cotton we use over the coming years,” says Frank Henke, adidas Group VP, Social and Environmental Affairs.

Upon this milestone, BCI applauds adidas’s achievement and celebrates the work of all its members. To date, BCI has over 700 members sourcing and supplying Better Cotton at all stages of the textile supply chain. Led by a group of pioneering organisations, BCI’s members can be proud of their efforts to make a responsible alternative the mainstream norm.

”We are very proud of the work we do with our members. Their commitment to BCI is extremely important to us, as it helps support the work of our farmers and drives demand for Better Cotton throughout the supply chain,” says Paola Geremicca, BCI Programme Director of Fundraising and Communications.

As a BCI Pioneer member, adidas has committed to source 100 percent “more sustainable cotton’ across all product categories in all its brands by 2018.

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2014 Harvest Report released

BCI is pleased to announce the publication of our 2014 Harvest Report. The report details Better Cotton harvest data at global and field levels in 2014, and completes the second of two reporting phases for the year — the first being our Annual Report.

Important highlights include:
» 1.2 million farmers participated in BCI’s programme – up 79 percent from 2013.

» BCI farmers produced 2 million metric tonnes of Better Cotton lint – a 118 percent increase on the previous year.

» Better Cotton made up 7.6 percent of global cotton production.

» Better Cotton was grown in 20 countries worldwide, five more than in 2013.

» As an example of country results, Better Cotton farmers in Pakistan used 15% less pesticide, 19% less synthetic fertiliser, 18% less water and increased their profits by 46% as compared to comparison farmers.

We’re extremely proud of everything we achieved in 2014. Most notably the year’s results confirmed the underlying premise of our model: higher yields, reduced inputs of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, resulting in much higher income for our farmers. As the 2015 season continues, we’re making strong progress towards establishing Better Cotton as a more sustainable mainstream commodity.

A note on timing: Better Cotton is sown and harvested in different annual cycles across the world, and when releasing data, we must first collect, check and collate information from every region. For this reason, our 2014 harvest data is ready for distribution late in the following year.

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Better Cotton Announces Results of First Year US Pilot

BCI has completed a small scale pilot of its standard system in the USA during 2014. Twenty-two farms in four states (Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and California) took part in the pilot project, and together produced over 11,000 metric tons (26 million lbs) of cotton lint. The farms each completed a self-assessment and hosted an on-farm visit by independent, 3rd party verifiers to confirm they meet BCI’s criteria for environmental stewardship and working conditions. All participants who completed the process are now licensed to sell Better Cotton to participating merchants.

Cheryl Luther of Black Oak Gin in northeastern Arkansas guided three farmers through the licensing process. She said ”I was skeptical at first. I’ve been a sustainability proponent for years, and I understood the brands want transparency and verification, but I thought the process and paperwork would be a burden. In the end, though, it was simple and easy to gather.” One of the three Black Oak growers, Danny Qualls of Lake City, Arkansas said,” I love growing cotton, but the market needs more innovative ideas like BCI.”

Cannon Michael, owner of Bowles Farming Company in California’s San Joaquin Valley, said, ”We take pride in the way we treat our employees, care for the environment and strive to improve. I think this opportunity to “prove up’ against independent standards and verification is good for us and our customers.” Bowles is one of six participating farms that are members of Supima, the US pima cotton marketing association. Supima president Jesse Curlee echoed Michael’s sentiments saying, ”We’re on board for very practical business reasons. British retailer Marks & Spencer is a key customer for us. They’re also a BCI member and sourcing Better Cotton is a key component of their corporate sustainability strategy.”

CEO of BCI Patrick Laine added, ”We’re delighted with the collaboration and efforts of cotton growers in the US to bring US Better Cotton to the supply chain. This responds to a request of many global brands. The first volumes of US Better Cotton to reach the market were purchased immediately – and we intend to satisfy that demand in coming years by expanding the supply of US Better Cotton.This is an extremely positive start, and we look forward to working with more USA farmers on continually improving practices that are directly relevant to their businesses.”

In West Texas, twelve members of the Hart Producers Coop Gin participated in the project. Gin Manager Todd Straley said, “We see this as a great way to stay ahead of the curve, being responsive to changing market expectations and demonstrating our growers’ commitment to sustainability and continual improvement.”

BCI has been working in other cotton growing regions of the world since 2010 to promote measurable and continuing improvements for the environment, farming communities, and their economies. Last year, spurred by strong interest from major brands and retailers using Better Cotton as a supply benchmark, we chose to expand our focus to include the US.

BCI will convene a multi-stakeholder process early in the new year to review the lessons learned during the pilot, and receive feedback from all parties engaged in this project or interested in BCI’s development.

 

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Better Cotton 2013 Harvest Report now available for download in Chinese and French

We are very pleased to announce the publication of theBCI 2013 Harvest Report in Chinese and in French. In answer to feedback from our members, we are reporting on our harvest data – at global and country level – in additional languages for the very first time. These reports are a key contribution in making Better Cotton accessible to a global market. Visit our Annual Reports web page to download and share the reports.

The English language version of the 2013 Harvest Report was released in September.

Some highlights include:

» Almost 680,000 farmers met the standard to earn a licence to grow Better Cotton. That’s a 400% increase on last year thanks to great progress made on successful global partnerships.
» 905,000 metric tonnes of Better Cotton were produced, included that produced under two newly benchmarked standards: Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and the ABR standard in Brazil.
» Better Cotton was produced in 15 countries worldwide.
» Independent case studies were conducted in China and Mali, including qualitative feedback from the farmers themselves on the most significant changes they have seen since becoming part of the Better Cotton movement.

Better Cotton is sown and harvested in different annual cycles all over the world, which means we provide the results of a harvest late on in the following year when all data has been collected, checked and collated.

We’re incredibly proud of everything we achieved on entering our Expansion Phase in 2013, and as the 2014 season continues we’re making strong progress towards making Better Cotton a more sustainable mainstream commodity.

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VF Sustainability Report and Better Cotton video released

Better Cotton Fast Track Program member VF recently released their comprehensive online Sustainability Report, citing their commitment to Better Cotton in Eric Wiseman’s (CEO) opening address. Click here to read about their commitment to more responsible cotton production, and view VF’s newly released video on our Vimeo channel featuring BCI China Country Manager, Sherry Wu:vimeo.com/bettercotton

VF annually purchases about 1 percent of the world’s cotton, which requires land roughly 32 times the size of Manhattan Island, New York, to fill their orders. Their commitment to BCI means that the cotton farmers who cultivate some of that land learn how to grow cotton in a way that cares for the environment, according to the BCI Production Principles.

Brad van Voorhees (VF Supply Chain Sustainability) says: “VF has aligned with the Better Cotton Initiative as we believe it is the best solution to address the environmental and social issues associated with the production of one of our most important raw materials.”

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Better Cotton 2013 Harvest Report released

We are very pleased to announce the publication of the BCI 2013 Harvest Report. This report details our harvest data at global and field level, and completes the second of two reporting stages for 2013 – the first being our Annual Report.

Some highlights include:

» Almost 680,000 farmers met the standard to earn a licence to grow Better Cotton. That’s a 400% increase on last year thanks to great progress made on successful global partnerships.
» 905,000 metric tonnes of Better Cotton were produced, included that produced under two newly benchmarked standards: Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and the ABR standard in Brazil.
» Better Cotton was produced in 15 countries worldwide.
» Independent case studies were conducted in China and Mali, including qualitative feedback from the farmers themselves on the most significant changes they have seen since becoming part of the Better Cotton movement.

Better Cotton is sown and harvested in different annual cycles all over the world, which means we provide the results of a harvest late on in the following year when all data has been collected, checked and collated.

We’re incredibly proud of everything we achieved on entering our Expansion Phase in 2013, and as the 2014 season continues we’re making strong progress towards making Better Cotton a more sustainable mainstream commodity. If you wish to read more, go to our Annual Reports page by clicking here.

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