The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), together with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), has launched its first programme in Egpyt, paving the way for some 2,000 smallholder cotton farmers to receive training and support on how to grow Egyptian Cotton more sustainably.
The Better Cotton Standard System is a holistic approach to sustainable cotton production, which covers all three pillars of sustainability: social, environmental and economic, and addresses the many challenges of cotton production.
BCI says there is a high level of multi-stakeholder engagement in Egypt from government agencies, civil society organisations, trade associations, farmer associations, and commercial actors within the supply chain, which will allow its programme to be implemented in a robust way.
Participating farmers will receive training on the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. By adhering to these principles, farmers produce cotton in a way that is measurably better for the environment and farming communities.
“BCI supports all initiatives that seek to make cotton production more sustainable. Egyptian cotton, known for its superior fibre quality, is long-staple cotton grown by smallholder farmers. Making the Better Cotton Standard System accessible to smallholder farmers is BCI’s priority – 99% of the farmers BCI works with today are smallholders,” says Alia Malik, director of implementation at BCI.
Following a successful pilot project in 2019, and completion of the necessary new country start-up process, Egypt officially became a new BCI programme country in May 2020 as part of a renewed drive in the country to increase sustainability and improve conditions for Egyptian cotton farmers. The programme is funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation as part of the Egyptian Cotton Project.
Together with the Cotton Research Institute and implementing partners – organisations responsible for supporting and training farmers to continuously improve their sustainable agricultural practices according to the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria – ALKAN and Modern Nile Cotton, UNIDO will ensure that farmers receive the knowledge and tools to improve their agricultural practices.
From the 2020-21 cotton season onwards, farmers in Egypt who participate in the BCI programme may be eligible to receive a licence to sell their cotton as ‘Better Cotton’.
BCI is among five associations representing the cotton and textile industry that joined hands last month on a call for fair and equitable trade practices across global supply chains amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
In April, the organisation established an expert task force to review selected elements of its Better Cotton Standard System in relation to forced labour and decent work.