Barriers to training and land degradation
Conventional cotton production comes with significant sustainability challenges. In many countries, cotton farmers face barriers to transitioning to sustainable cultivation practices.
Working along the whole supply chain
The global cotton supply chain is long, complex and involves thousands of people, including farmers, ginners, merchants, spinners, weavers, manufacturers and retailers. We believe the solution lies in working with the entire supply chain to bring about sustainable change throughout the sector.
Cotton producers in Brazil increased their profits by 18% despite poor rainfall patterns and lower farm gate values for cotton. Strengthening of local cooperative Coopercat led to an increase of about 10% in the number of smallholder producers supported through technical assistance, collective purchasing of inputs and collective sales of cotton lint. The processing volume of 630 tonnes of cotton lint was the same as in 2018.
Cotton and water
We established two organic cotton and water programmes in India’s Maharashtra state, aiming to reach 30,000 farmers. Cotton production accounts for 54% of pesticide use in Indian agriculture, causing immense ecological and human hazards. In Brazil, we continued to support smallholder cotton production in semi-arid conditions. Six of seven pilot farmers who switched to irrigated production recorded increased productivity of 155% on average, with peaks of +643% per hectare.
Solidaridad’s interventions led to improvements in both the supply of and demand for sustainable cotton. It contacted farmers, started pilots to test new ideas and identify opportunities, and increasingly involved brands and retailers.
In field projects in Brazil, South Africa and India, Solidaridad supported the adoption of good agricultural practices and helped farmers address issues ranging from water efficiency to gender inclusion.
In Ethiopia, Solidaridad made the business case for producing sustainable and profitable cotton in a pilot project while ensuring market uptake by local textile factories.
Solidaridad in China and North America concluded a three-year project that focussed on empowering women cotton farmers by promoting good agricultural practices, leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
From field to fashion
Solidaridad contributed to a sustainable cotton sector from field to fashion. By supporting Indian farmers in adopting good agricultural practices, exploring innovations with supply chain partners in Mozambique and monitoring company performance via the Cotton Ranking, Solidaridad worked on enhancing both the supply of and demand for sustainable cotton. The growing interest in cotton sustainability, reflected in national policies and corporate commitments, was an encouraging incentive to ramp up sustainability efforts in 2017.
Consolidation and expansion
In a challenging global context, Solidaridad’s cotton programme was consolidated in nine key production countries (China, India, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique, Senegal, Mali and Ghana), while expanding to Ethiopia and South Africa. These last two countries offered new perspectives with the opportunity to connect to the growing textiles industry in Ethiopia, and domestic brands and retailers in South Africa.
An H&M partner
Solidaridad became one of H&M’s official strategic partners.
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) programme expanded to Kenya, Senegal, and Mozambique, while Solidaridad’s ProCotton programme reached 150,000 farmers. Solidaridad began a partnership with Tommy Hilfiger and won another BCI prize, this time for changing woman farmers’ lives in Mali through training in literacy, leadership and communication.
The BCI expanded to Mozambique and Solidaridad’s ProCotton programme expanded to Uganda and now totalled 28 projects. Four Chinese BCI projects became Better Cotton licensees.
Solidaridad’s Cotton Solution Network team for India won the ‘Proud to be an implementing partner’ award at the BCI’s General Assembly for the clarity, impact and originality of two best practice stories.
Learning and improving
The BCI launched in China, where it was the first initiative of its kind. Solidaridad’s ProCotton programme expanded to Tanzania and Zambia.
The Rabobank Foundation, co-funder of Solidaridad’s Cotton Solutions Network, visited India to learn about the challenges facing implementation of the Better Cotton System and Solidaridad’s approach to solving them.
The first Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) projects began.
Fair Trade banknotes
The Dutch National Bank, Solidaridad and the Max Havelaar Foundation launched the first euro banknotes made from Fair Trade cotton.
Normalizing sustainable fashion
Solidaridad launched Chetna organic in India and began MADE-BY, a non-profit organization with the mission of making sustainable fashion common practice.
Sustainable clothing line
Solidaridad founded the sustainable clothing brand Kuyichi to order to introduce organic cotton to the clothing industry.
Collaboration takes off
Oro Blanco, a collaboration between Solidaridad and farmers in Peru, started growing organic cotton and other crops.
Where we work
Better mill initiative
The Better Mill Initiative is a pilot initiative funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that aims to promote cleaner production practices to reduce the environmental impact of textile processing and to promote gender inclusivity and decent work, thereby improving labour conditions in selected factories. By addressing social and environmental challenges in line with international export standards, Solidaridad aims to work towards a more sustainable and inclusive textiles and apparel industry in Ethiopia that generates decent jobs and sustainable exports, thereby contributing to the government targets of Ethiopia on textiles.
Bottom UP! is a cotton and garment project, funded by the European Union that aims at creating and ensuring growth and production sustainability, transparency and inclusivity along the cotton value chain in Ethiopia. The project is working with approximately 19,200 workers and 2,000 farmers along the value chain.
Globally, around 33 million hectares are planted with cotton, out of which 12 million hectares are in India. Cotton is a very important fibre crop for India as it provides the basic raw material to cotton textile industry. India has nine major cotton producing states and Solidaridad has been working on improving the cotton since 2004 by promoting the use of both organic cotton and BCI cotton projects initially in states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. It then gradually expanded its scope of work to other states as well.