As demand for sustainable cotton continues to rise, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) has made significant progress in making Better Cotton a mainstream commodity, with 1.3 million BCI Farmers growing 3.3 million metric tonnes of Better Cotton in 2017, in 21 countries.
That is 14% of global cotton production. To reach 30% by 2020, we are collaborating with apparel and textile industry stakeholders worldwide. Importantly, we are supporting BCI Farmers across the spectrum – from smallholders, who farm the vast majority of the world’s cotton, to co-operatives and large, mechanised farms. In every country where we work, we help BCI Farmers to improve their livelihoods, while addressing the particular climatic, environmental and social challenges they face.
Conducting training for millions of BCI Farmers worldwide is a major undertaking and relies on the support of trusted, like-minded partners on the ground in each country where Better Cotton is grown. We call these partners our Implementing Partners (IPs), and we take an inclusive approach to the types of organisation with whom we partner. They can be NGOs, co-operatives or companies within the cotton supply chain, and are responsible for helping BCI Farmers acquire the social and environmental knowledge they need to cultivate Better Cotton, and encourage uptake of Better Cotton in the cotton supply chain.
Each IP supports a series of Producer Units (PUs), a grouping of BCI Farmers (from smallholder or medium sized farms) from the same community or region. Their leader, the PU Manager, helps multiple, smaller groups, known as Learning Groups, to master best practice techniques, in line with the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria, our global definition of Better Cotton. Each Learning Group, in turn, is supported by a Lead Farmer, who organises training sessions for his or her members, creates regular opportunities to discuss progress and challenges, and encourages best practice in recording their results.
Our more than 4,000 Field Facilitators, employed by our IPs, form the backbone of the implementation system across the world. Often with backgrounds in agronomy, Field Facilitators deliver on-the-ground training (frequently through practical demonstrations in the field) and raise awareness of social issues.
This robust, proven approach to training is progressively helping BCI Farmers to raise productivity and improve their profits, in a way that is better for people and better for the environment. Here, we explore three very different stories of inspiring people at all levels of the BCI training world. We meet a Lead Farmer in Mozambique who has measurably improved his yields and his family’s quality of life by adopting sustainable farming techniques. We hear the story of a pioneering female Field Facilitator in Pakistan, who has overcome cultural barriers to become a role model for girls and women in her community. And we speak to a young Chinese PU Manager, who has seized the opportunity to lead his family’s cotton co-operative and help 277 BCI Farmers cultivate Better Cotton.