Combat Against Climate Change on Cotton Communities or C5 is designed to help farmers mitigate threats to their health, in addition to their crops, and is the first system of its kind to focus on the lived experience of cotton farmers and pickers.

The feasibility study is a combined effort between social enterprise CottonConnect and R&D consultancy Assimila and it is supported by the European Space Agency’s EO Science for Society Programme.

It investigates how linking Earth observation and climate analysis can help farmers to plan for extreme climate change that may affect their ability to farm. It comprises two main elements, a health ‘stress’ index to identify where health risks (such as heat stroke and exhaustion) are increasing, in order to plan and manage farming activities, and an alert system providing extreme weather warnings, alerts and actionable information at key milestones during the cotton calendar.

Farmers will receive updates through text messages, radio broadcasts and outreach groups so they can act to limit worker exposure to harmful heat, avoid major risks such as flooding, and improve related activities such as crop production and livestock rearing that are also threatened by climate change.

Assimila will provide Earth observation and climate data analysis and CottonConnect has connections to cotton farmer communities and facilitates data collection. The C5 prototype is being developed for users in Bangladesh with a view to rolling it out to other major cotton-producing nations.

CottoConnect CEO Alison Ward says: “We know that smallholder farmers are already facing the impacts of climate change. This significant partnership supported by the European Space Agency, brings Assimila’s expertise in Earth observation, modelling and computing together with CottonConnect’s experience of working with rural communities, to address climate-related changes that we see all too often among our farmers. We’re optimistic that access to improved forecasting tools will help them develop more sustainable cultivation practices by helping them understand, monitor and even predict the environment in which they are farming.”

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Assimila director Andy Shaw adds: “C5 will support cotton farmers adapt to changing climate factors by providing up-to-date information focused on issues affecting the health of cotton growers. Exploiting advances in Earth observation and climate data science, C5 will generate a range of hazard indices and alerting services to inform support mechanisms for farmers and workers.”

In June social enterprise CottonConnect and product traceability solutions company Haelixa announced they were joining forces to deliver digital and physical cotton traceability throughout the supply chain.