The Embassy recently visited cotton farmers in the state of Punjab and learned about the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a sustainable farming method initiated in 2005 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) with support from the Swedish retailers IKEA and H&M amongst others. BCI aims to make global cotton production better for the environment and the people who produce it.
BCI teaches farmers to utilize sustainable practices including the reduction of water, fertilizer and chemicals - while increasing profit margins. With the aim of producing cotton in a way that cares for the environment, Better Cotton also helps the farmers achieve better yields and more financial security through access to global markets and improving the working conditions in their fields.
Improving child rights in cotton growing areas is also a core component of the program. BCI certified cotton is not picked by children, which has led to creation of child-friendly communities where children stay in school and get a quality education.
The BCI project has been implemented in 310 villages in South-Western Punjab, covering 50% of the cotton growing area in the state. WWF India targets to contribute to convert the entire cotton growing area by 2021.
During a field visit by the Norwegian Ambassador in Punjab earlier this month, the entire BCI process was showcased during an interaction with WWF and local cotton farmers. The farmers showed great satisfaction of being part of the initiative, and explained that it had created security and continuity for their livelihood. “Earlier I was not aware that sending my children to work in the fields would hamper their future, now I work in the fields myself while my children attend school”, one farmer proudly explained. Being educated on best harvesting timings and practices was another factor that had helped them gain higher profits.
The Embassy was also pleased to learn that Norwegian retailers such as Varner Group, Kid Interior and Princess-Gruppen are using BCI certified cotton in 50% of their production, and have committed to become 100% BCI certified by 2020, thereby doing their bit to help make cotton production better.