For the first time, our magazine presents the increasingly popular cotton program – Better Cotton, whose users are about 3 million agricultural producers around the world. Alan McCLAY, Chief Executive Officer of Better Cotton, shared the specifics of the approach to work, principles and effectiveness of its implementation in Uzbekistan with the correspondent of the magazine.
– Alan, first of all, could you please tell us more about this programme and its purpose. What is the impact of the programme on the cotton industry of our country?
– Better Cotton is the world’s largest cotton sustainability initiative, reaching more than 2.9 million licenced farmers globally. Through the implementation of the Better Cotton Standard System, we support farmers and farm workers to produce more sustainable cotton. We launched our Uzbekistan programme in 2022 and are working with a growing number of large farms in the country. They benefit from training and resources provided by Better Cotton through local Programme Partners.
Better Cotton’s approach is not new to Uzbekistan. Since 2017, projects led by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the German development agency GIZ, have applied the Better Cotton Principles in promoting sustainable farming and decent work practices and standards in Uzbekistan’s cotton sector. These projects have helped farmers to drive improvements through capacity strengthening and training focused on the Better Cotton Principles to support crop protection, efficient water use and protect soil, amongst other things. Thus, more than 3,000 farmers, agronomists, irrigators, brigadiers, and other cotton cluster workers have increased their capacity to produce more sustainable cotton in Uzbekistan from 2017-2022.
– Could you please tell our readers about the achievements in the field during the time the organisation has been in operation?
– It is too early to report on our impact in Uzbekistan’s cotton sector – we launched our programme just last year. However, we have over a decade of work under our belt in leading cotton growing countries around the world which demonstrate the tangible benefits for cotton farmers within our framework.
For example, in the 2020/21 cotton season, farmers across India, Pakistan, Turkey and Tajikistan reduced their water and synthetic pesticide use whilst boosting their yields comparative to conventional cotton farmers.
We have just published our 2023 India Impact Report, which charts Better Cotton Farmer performance from the 2014/15 season to the 2021/22 season to gauge year-on-year improvements in that country. In this report, we spotlight how farmers have achieved impressive reductions in pesticide and water use, and show results which indicate that farmer livelihoods and gender equality have improved.
– How complex are cotton supply chains both in Uzbekistan and globally?
– Cotton supply chains are highly complex. The specialist skillsets of different stakeholders around the world are fundamental to turning this raw material into a finished product. That all starts with cotton farmers, and the sustainability credentials of their operations have a significant impact on the subsequent credentials of garments and other textile-based goods made using cotton. They are an integral cog in the fashion industry machine, which is why we are committed to supporting and helping drive environmental, social and economic improvements at the farm level. Better Cotton has grown from a network of just a few thousand cotton farmers to an initiative that, in the 2020/21 cotton season, trained more than 2.9 million farmers across 26 countries. We deploy the standard through our network of country-level Programme Partners, who facilitate training and the allocation of resources in a way that is most locally relevant and beneficial. In doing so, we support farming communities to survive and thrive, whilst protecting and restoring the environment.