Why Cotton Sustainability Strategies Must Include Smallholder Farmers
For cotton, that means smallholders: Ninety-nine percent of the world's cotton farmers are operating on a small scale
For cotton, that means smallholders: Ninety-nine percent of the world's cotton farmers are operating on a small scale. As Alan McClay, CEO of Better Cotton, said during a recent conversation with Sourcing Journal sourcing and labor editor Jasmin Malik Chua, sustainable agriculture practices go hand-in-hand with contributing to viable livelihoods for farmers.
Better Cotton is currently conducting a revision of its standard, with one focus being alleviating poverty among farmers and workers. A study in two regions of India, conducted by the Netherlands' Wageningen University, found that Better Cotton farmers received 13 cents more per kilogram of cotton, which averaged to a seasonal profitability of $82 per acre.
One study found that just a third of women cotton cultivators in Maharashtra, India attended any training in 2018-19. To understand the impact of the Better Cotton standard, the organization collects millions of data points from farms.
Better Cotton has had traceability in place from Better Cotton farms to gins up until now, but the need for increased visibility throughout the rest of the supply chain has grown as legislation makes ethical sourcing a requirement rather than a choice. Better Cotton's current method of volume tracking through mass balance will likely be joined by new traceability chain of custody models that will increase the visibility of Better Cotton supply chains.
"Of all the agricultural supply chains, cotton is possibly the most complicated and the most obscure," McClay said.