Sustainable Agriculture Experts and Better Cotton Partners to Convene for Virtual Event

 
Each year, BCI hosts an event for its field-level Implementing Partners who provide training on more sustainable practices to millions of cotton farmers worldwide.

The annual Implementing Partner Meeting enables BCI’s partners to come together to share best practices in sustainable farming, learn from one another, be inspired by innovations in the field and the market, collaborate and engage in valuable networking.

Across four days in January 2021, more than 100 of BCI’s partners from 18 countries will gather for the first virtual edition of the event. The theme this year is Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption, and sessions will focus on topics such as gender and climate, financing climate action, soil health, restoring degraded areas and commitments to action.

BCI partners will be joined by BCI staff and sustainability experts from Solidaridad, Helvetas, WWF, Forum for the Future, Rainforest Alliance, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), PAN-UK, Care International, the Foundation for Ecological Security, and the Sustainable Agriculture Network.

On the final day of the event, partners will reflect on Covid-19 adaptations and learnings from 2020 and explore how to best prepare for the future.

Highlights and key learnings from the 2021 meeting will be shared following the event. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].

BCI’s 2021 Virtual Implementing Partner Meeting is officially sponsored by Interactio.

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Highlights: 2020 Better Cotton Implementing Partner Meeting & Symposium

 
In January 2020, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) convened more than 45 of its field-level partner organisations – Implementing Partners – from 12 countries, for the fourth edition of the BCI Implementing Partner Meeting & Symposium. The annual meeting provides BCI’s Implementing Partners with an opportunity to come together to share knowledge, best practice and innovations across teams, organisation, regions and countries.

We’ve picked out some event highlights in this short video!

The three-day event focused primarily on biodiversity and the practices and innovations being implemented on the ground. BCI’s Implementing Partners had the opportunity to share their successes and challenges, while biodiversity experts took to the stage to share their insights. Guest speakers included Olivia Scholtz, High Conservation Value (HCV) Resource Network; Gwendolyn Ellen, independent consultant; Nan Zeng, The Nature Conservancy; Liron Israely, Tel-Aviv University; and Vamshi Krishna, WWF India.

Sharing practical solutions was a key element of the event and each partner organisation had the opportunity to showcase the methods and tools they are most proud of. This created a great opportunity for hands-on learning, and attendees explored a rich variety of biodiversity practices from different BCI Programme countries.

To further recognise the great work of BCI’s field-level partners, 10 Producer Unit Managers* were shortlisted and awarded for their outstanding efforts in the field. Meet the winners.

The event concluded with each attendee committing to actions to protect, enhance and restore biodiversity in 2020 based on the challenges and solutions identified and tested in the previous cotton sessions.

*Each BCI Implementing Partner supports a series ofProducer Units, which is a group of BCI Farmers (from smallholder ormedium sizedfarms) from the same community or region. Each Producer Unit is overseen by a Producer Unit Manager and has a team of Field Facilitators; who work directly with farmers to raise awareness and adoption of more sustainable practices, in line with the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria.
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The High Conservation Value Network and the Better Cotton Initiative Enter a Reciprocal Partnership Agreement

 
We are pleased to welcome the High Conservation Value (HCV) Network as our newest BCI Member. Earlier this month, we entered into a reciprocal agreement, meaning that the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is also a member of the HCV Network.

During the revision of BCI’s Better Cotton Principles and Criteria (2015 – 2017), BCI and HCV Network worked collectively to develop innovative yet simple approaches to introduce theHigh Conservation ValueApproach and effectivebiodiversity management tools, specially designed with smallholder farmers in mind, into the Better Cotton Standard.

The agreement and reciprocal membership follow a number of years of collaboration, during which HCV Network contributed to the revision of the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. Last year, we joined BCI to kick-start training on biodiversity management tools with BCI Farmers in Mozambique and India. We look forward to continuing to support BCI,” says OliviaScholtz, Senior Project Manager at HCV Network.

BCI is working to ensure that farms of all sizes undertake a simplified HCV assessment (a field assessment involving the collection of field data, stakeholder consultations and analysis of existing information), prior to converting any land, such as forests, for cotton production.

”In the coming years, we will continue to work together to ensure biodiversity management tools are implemented effectively, especially where support is required to adapt the tools to national contexts. We are very happy to be strengthening our partnership with HCV Network to drive biodiversity conservation,” says Gregory Jean, Standard and Learning Manager at BCI.

Find out how BCI Farmers are protecting and enhancing biodiversity in cotton farming.

About HCV Network

The HCV Network is a member-based organisation that strives to protect High Conservation Values in areas where the expansion of forestry and agriculture may put important forests, biodiversity and local communities at risk. The HCV Network is formed by organisations that use and promote the HCV Approach.

https://hcvnetwork.org

© BCI | Water Stewardship and Land Use Training, Mozambique.

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Laying the Foundation for Sustainable Cotton Production in India

In India, the first harvest of Better Cotton took place during the 2010-11 cotton season. Global fabric and apparel manufacturer Arvind Ltd. partnered with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to lead the implementation of the Better Cotton Standard,laying the foundation for more sustainable cotton production in the country.

Arvind’s journey to sustainable cotton production began a few years earlier in 2007, when the organisation developed an organic smallholder farming programme;at the same time, BCIwas being established. Seeing the potential to take sustainably produced cotton mainstream, and change the sector for the better, Arvind joined the earlydiscussions about the initiative. The manufacturer went on to become BCI’s first Implementing Partner in India – the first bales of Better Cotton were produced on a farm under Arvind’s management. Today,Arvind works with more than 25,000 BCI Farmers (9% are women) in three cotton-producing regions.

Once Arvind haveidentified cotton-producing communities that require support, they aim to work with as many farmers as they can. However, it is not always easy to convince farmers to break away from traditional practices. ”Initially farmers have a mixed reaction to BCI”, says Pragnesh Shah, CEO, Cotton and Agri Business at Arvind. ”They want to know how implementing the Better Cotton Standard will benefit them, and they want to know what the risks are. The farmers we work with do not have the finances to invest in better farming technologiesand they cannot afford to take risks that may impact their yields. We need to clearly demonstrate the benefits of adopting new — cost-effective and sustainable — farming techniques to them”.

To do this, Arvind works closely with local agricultural universities and science centres to organise meetings where farmers can interact directly with subject experts. To clearly demonstrate the benefits of new practices, cotton demonstration plots are implemented in each village under the BCI Programme. ”Seeing is believing for many farmers”, says Abhishek Bansal, Head of Sustainability at Arvind. ”Once they see the potential to reduce their input costs, improve their yields and profits, as well as receive free training and advice, they are enthusiastic about BCI and open to adopting new practices”.

Environmental conditions such as water availability and soil health present particularly pressing challenges for many of the cotton farmers within Arvind’s BCI Programme areas. The farmers work in water stressed regions and depend on rainfall to irrigate their crops – if the summer monsoon fails this leads to water shortages. In collaboration with other NGOs, Arvind teaches farmers about water harvesting and drip irrigation methods, helping them to manage and use water in a more sustainable way.

Educating farmers on the impacts of hazardous chemicals on soil and on personal health is another key focus area. ”Historically there has been a common overuse of chemicals in cotton farming in India”, says Pragnesh. ”We teach farmers how to make and use natural bio-pesticides while also helping them to understand what fertilisers and pesticides should be used, given the condition of the land. We provide farmers with the knowledge to identify friendly and enemy insects – showing them how to use various types of traps to remove enemies without the use of pesticides. In the long-term we want to help farmers to improve soil fertility and reduce the need for chemicals”.

Pragnesh and Abhishek have discovered that attitudes towards cotton production are shifting. They have seen first-hand that the next generation of cotton farmers are looking for change. ”Younger farmers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and they are keen to implement new techniques and technologies that will help to effectively raise yields”, says Pragnesh. A shift is also taking place beyond the cotton fields. ”In the last two years we have seen increased demand for Better Cotton from retailers and brands, as many implement sustainable raw materials strategies”, says Abhishek. ”We hope to have 400,000 hectares under Better Cotton cultivation in the next 4 to 5 years (up from 100,000 hectares today) in order to meet demand for more sustainably produced cotton”.

Arvind has been a supporter of BCI since day one and fostered more sustainable cotton production in India. The organisation continues to be a valued partner and is working with BCI to achieve our 2020 target of reaching and training 5 million cotton farmers on more sustainable agricultural practices.

Image: BCI Farmers inMaharashtra, India.© Arvind 2018.

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Laying the Foundation for Sustainable Cotton Production in India

In India, the first harvest of Better Cotton took place during the 2010-11 cotton season. Global fabric and apparel manufacturer Arvind Ltd. partnered with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to lead the implementation of the Better Cotton Standard,laying the foundation for more sustainable cotton production in the country.

Arvind’s journey to sustainable cotton production began a few years earlier in 2007, when the organisation developed an organic smallholder farming programme;at the same time, BCIwas being established. Seeing the potential to take sustainably produced cotton mainstream, and change the sector for the better, Arvind joined the earlydiscussions about the initiative. The manufacturer went on to become BCI’s first Implementing Partner in India – the first bales of Better Cotton were produced on a farm under Arvind’s management. Today,Arvind works with more than 25,000 BCI Farmers (9% are women) in three cotton-producing regions.

Once Arvind haveidentified cotton-producing communities that require support, they aim to work with as many farmers as they can. However, it is not always easy to convince farmers to break away from traditional practices. ”Initially farmers have a mixed reaction to BCI”, says Pragnesh Shah, CEO, Cotton and Agri Business at Arvind. ”They want to know how implementing the Better Cotton Standard will benefit them, and they want to know what the risks are. The farmers we work with do not have the finances to invest in better farming technologiesand they cannot afford to take risks that may impact their yields. We need to clearly demonstrate the benefits of adopting new — cost-effective and sustainable — farming techniques to them”.

To do this, Arvind works closely with local agricultural universities and science centres to organise meetings where farmers can interact directly with subject experts. To clearly demonstrate the benefits of new practices, cotton demonstration plots are implemented in each village under the BCI Programme. ”Seeing is believing for many farmers”, says Abhishek Bansal, Head of Sustainability at Arvind. ”Once they see the potential to reduce their input costs, improve their yields and profits, as well as receive free training and advice, they are enthusiastic about BCI and open to adopting new practices”.

Environmental conditions such as water availability and soil health present particularly pressing challenges for many of the cotton farmers within Arvind’s BCI Programme areas. The farmers work in water stressed regions and depend on rainfall to irrigate their crops – if the summer monsoon fails this leads to water shortages. In collaboration with other NGOs, Arvind teaches farmers about water harvesting and drip irrigation methods, helping them to manage and use water in a more sustainable way.

Educating farmers on the impacts of hazardous chemicals on soil and on personal health is another key focus area. ”Historically there has been a common overuse of chemicals in cotton farming in India”, says Pragnesh. ”We teach farmers how to make and use natural bio-pesticides while also helping them to understand what fertilisers and pesticides should be used, given the condition of the land. We provide farmers with the knowledge to identify friendly and enemy insects – showing them how to use various types of traps to remove enemies without the use of pesticides. In the long-term we want to help farmers to improve soil fertility and reduce the need for chemicals”.

Pragnesh and Abhishek have discovered that attitudes towards cotton production are shifting. They have seen first-hand that the next generation of cotton farmers are looking for change. ”Younger farmers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and they are keen to implement new techniques and technologies that will help to effectively raise yields”, says Pragnesh. A shift is also taking place beyond the cotton fields. ”In the last two years we have seen increased demand for Better Cotton from retailers and brands, as many implement sustainable raw materials strategies”, says Abhishek. ”We hope to have 400,000 hectares under Better Cotton cultivation in the next 4 to 5 years (up from 100,000 hectares today) in order to meet demand for more sustainably produced cotton”.

Arvind has been a supporter of BCI since day one and fostered more sustainable cotton production in India. The organisation continues to be a valued partner and is working with BCI to achieve our 2020 target of reaching and training 5 million cotton farmers on more sustainable agricultural practices.

Image: BCI Farmers inMaharashtra, India.© Arvind 2018.

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Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund Reaches 1 Million Farmers

 
The Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund (Better Cotton GIF),managed in partnership with the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), makes strategic investments into Better Cotton projects to support the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) in reaching its 2020 targets.

In the 2017-18 cotton season, the Better Cotton GIF invested €9.4 million in more sustainable cotton farming practices in China, India, Mozambique, Pakistan, Senegal, Tajikistan and Turkey Рreaching and training over one million cotton farmers*.

The Better Cotton GIF Annual Report provides insight into the Funds activities to reach this milestone, with stories from BCI’s Implementing Partners and BCI Farmers in the seven cotton-producing countries.

Access the reporthere.

What is the Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund?

The Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund (Better Cotton GIF) was launched in 2016, by the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH).The Better Cotton GIF is governed by the BCI Council, in partnership with BCI Retailer and Brand Members, Civil Society Members and government bodies. IDH is the official fund manager, as well as an important funder.In the 2017-18 cotton season, the Better Cotton GIF directly invested €6.4 million in field-level programmes and mobilised an additional €3 million in co-funding from partners, resulting in a total portfolio value of €9.4 million.

*While the Better Cotton Growth and Innovation Fund reached over one million farmers in the 2017-2018 season, the Better Cotton Initiativeis forecast to reach and train a total of 1.7 million cotton farmers in the season. The final figures will be released in BCI’s 2018 Annual Report.

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Together Is Better: Better Cotton and OCA Focus on Shared Impact Through Collaboration

The Better Cotton Initiative’s approach is geared toward ensuring that as many farmers as possible gain access to knowledge and tools to improve the environmental, social and economic sustainability of cotton production. We want farmers, their families and communities to experience the benefits of more sustainable production. By 2020, we aim to reach 5 million farmers and ensure that Better Cotton accounts for 30% of global cotton production.

At the same time, BCI plays an important role in growing demand for more sustainable cotton. Strong demand is a key part of the business case for farmers to pursue any sustainability-related designation or certification. Last year, we saw a historic level of uptake, with 736,000 metric tonnes of Better Cotton claimed by BCI Retailer and Brand Members – a 60% increase on 2016. At the end of 2017, 42 of 85 retailer and brand members communicated public, time-bound commitments to source 100% of their cotton more sustainably. This momentum is important because, while approximately 15% of cotton is grown more sustainably, only around a fifth of this is actively sourced.[1]

In order to create systemic change within the sector and drive it towards sustainability, BCI recognises the importance of complementing and supporting other responsible cotton efforts. There are millions of farmers without access to training and capacity building on sustainable agricultural practices. Certifications, standards, licensing and other responsible cotton initiatives are working towards the same goal by providing essential support and training at farm-level. To meet their publicly declared sustainable cotton targets, we believe retailers and brands should support these efforts by developing a diverse portfolio, containing a variety of options, such as Better Cotton, Fairtrade, Cotton Made in Africa and organic cotton. To that end, BCI has recognised three other standards as equivalent to the Better Cotton Standard, eliminating duplication and inefficiencies in the market.

BCI is also a proud member of Cotton 2040 – a cross-industry partnership that brings together retailers and brands, cotton standards and industry initiatives to align efforts in priority areas for action. One fellow participant in Cotton 2040 is the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), which unites industry players to grow a prosperous organic cotton sector. Whilst we are working together through Cotton 2040, BCI and OCA are exploring concrete ways that we can strengthen each other’s efforts and reframe the conversation around Better Cotton and organic cotton. This work recognises the global cotton sectors diversity and the value that sustainable cotton brings to farmers, brands and retailers and consumers. ”There is plenty of market opportunity and demand for all cotton sustainability standards and certifications to grow and collectively drive the change that is necessary for the sectors longevity,” says OCA Executive Director, Crispin Argento. Imagine a sector where instead of 5 or 10 million farmers using more sustainable practices, 50 or 60 million, or one day, all farmers around the world were growing cotton responsibly, and benefiting from implementing improved practices.

As OCA has stated publicly, this is not a zero-sum game, and we couldn’t agree more. Increased production and demand of all sustainable cotton standards means improved environmental, social and economic conditions for more farmers. It creates movement from the niche to the mainstream and drives change that is both profound and lasting. BCI and OCA have begun to sit down and grapple with the key links that exist between both organisations’ approaches. We are hopeful that we can find ways of working together that ignite further change within the industry. In the coming year, stay tuned for news on how our joint efforts are evolving.

[1]Sustainable Cotton Ranking 2017 – WWF, Solidaridad and Pesticide Action Network UK

 

 

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Together Is Better: Better Cotton and OCA Focus on Shared Impact Through Collaboration

 
The Better Cotton Initiative’s approach is geared toward ensuring that as many farmers as possible gain access to knowledge and tools to improve the environmental, social and economic sustainability of cotton production. We want farmers, their families and communities to experience the benefits of more sustainable production. By 2020, we aim to reach 5 million farmers and ensure that Better Cotton accounts for 30% of global cotton production.

At the same time, BCI plays an important role in growing demand for more sustainable cotton. Strong demand is a key part of the business case for farmers to pursue any sustainability-related designation or certification. Last year, we saw a historic level of uptake, with 736,000 metric tonnes of Better Cotton claimed by BCI Retailer and Brand Members – a 60% increase on 2016. At the end of 2017, 42 of 85 retailer and brand members communicated public, time-bound commitments to source 100% of their cotton more sustainably. This momentum is important because, while approximately 15% of cotton is grown more sustainably, only around a fifth of this is actively sourced.[1]

In order to create systemic change within the sector and drive it towards sustainability, BCI recognises the importance of complementing and supporting other responsible cotton efforts. There are millions of farmers without access to training and capacity building on sustainable agricultural practices. Certifications, standards, licensing and other responsible cotton initiatives are working towards the same goal by providing essential support and training at farm-level. To meet their publicly declared sustainable cotton targets, we believe retailers and brands should support these efforts by developing a diverse portfolio, containing a variety of options, such as Better Cotton, Fairtrade, Cotton Made in Africa and organic cotton. To that end, BCI has recognised three other standards as equivalent to the Better Cotton Standard, eliminating duplication and inefficiencies in the market.

BCI is also a proud member of Cotton 2040 – a cross-industry partnership that brings together retailers and brands, cotton standards and industry initiatives to align efforts in priority areas for action. One fellow participant in Cotton 2040 is the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), which unites industry players to grow a prosperous organic cotton sector. Whilst we are working together through Cotton 2040, BCI and OCA are exploring concrete ways that we can strengthen each other’s efforts and reframe the conversation around Better Cotton and organic cotton. This work recognises the global cotton sectors diversity and the value that sustainable cotton brings to farmers, brands and retailers and consumers. ”There is plenty of market opportunity and demand for all cotton sustainability standards and certifications to grow and collectively drive the change that is necessary for the sectors longevity,” says OCA Executive Director, Crispin Argento. Imagine a sector where instead of 5 or 10 million farmers using more sustainable practices, 50 or 60 million, or one day, all farmers around the world were growing cotton responsibly, and benefiting from implementing improved practices.

As OCA has stated publicly, this is not a zero-sum game, and we couldn’t agree more. Increased production and demand of all sustainable cotton standards means improved environmental, social and economic conditions for more farmers. It creates movement from the niche to the mainstream and drives change that is both profound and lasting. BCI and OCA have begun to sit down and grapple with the key links that exist between both organisations’ approaches. We are hopeful that we can find ways of working together that ignite further change within the industry. In the coming year, stay tuned for news on how our joint efforts are evolving.

[1]Sustainable Cotton Ranking 2017 – WWF, Solidaridad and Pesticide Action Network UK

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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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