Better cotton threading its way towards global markets | WWF

Better cotton threading its way towards global markets

Posted on 09 July 2009    
Pesticides spraying in cotton field in Pirawalla, on the Punjab Plains in Pakistan. The Better Cotton Initiative seeks to reduce this kind of pesticides use. Pheremone traps help farmers monitor the type and number of insects, and prevent unnecessary spraying.
© WWF / Mauri RAUTKARI
Gland, Switzerland: The first batch of sustainable cotton – to be produced with a fraction of the water and pesticide use of traditional cotton cultivation – is expected to reach global markets starting next year.

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a partnership between major corporations such as Adidas, IKEA, Gap, and H&M, and NGOs such as WWF, recently created a new set of criteria to make cotton cultivation more economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable.

The Better Cotton System outlines mechanisms to mitigate the negative impacts of one of the world’s most water and chemical crops, which is often grown in semi-arid and water scarce areas.

Cotton cultivation covers more than 2.4 percent of global arable land, involving about 30 million farmers. Cotton is produced in more than 65 countries worldwide, mainly in the developing world.

“The Better Cotton Initiative aims to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it and better for the environment it grows in” said Walter Wagner, WWF Switzerland, newly elected vice-chair of the BCI.

Pilot projects are slated to test the BCI system in Pakistan, India, Africa, and Brazil to provide sustainable cotton to textile makers and buyers starting next year. For example, the initiative aims to reduce water and pesticide use.

Projects underway in Pakistan and India led by WWF and IKEA have led to 75 percent reduction in water and pesticide use, while increase the net revenue to cotton producers by 70 percent.

A WWF-IKEA project that began in 2006 in Andhra Pradesh state in India for more sustainable cotton production on a small scale with around 40 families. Today, the project covers 18 villages and involves around 600 cotton growers. The cotton growers worked with test areas where they test co-planting of crops, look at which pests are active and test biological pesticides.

“BCI endeavors to initiate global change in the mass market, with long-term benefits for the environment, farmers and other people dependent on cotton for their livelihood,” according to its website.

Pesticides spraying in cotton field in Pirawalla, on the Punjab Plains in Pakistan. The Better Cotton Initiative seeks to reduce this kind of pesticides use. Pheremone traps help farmers monitor the type and number of insects, and prevent unnecessary spraying.
© WWF / Mauri RAUTKARI Enlarge
Camels transport cotton in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Sustainable cotton, produced using less water and pesticides is now expected to reach global markets next year.
© WWF / Mauri Rautkari Enlarge

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