Cotton growers need help

By JW Dowey - 29 Aug 2014 7:58:1 GMT
Cotton growers need help

The cotton plant is usually disregarded, but the 90% of farmers who produce or ital. crop in the developing world don't see it that way. They need water desperately to continue growing the crop, as climate changes kick in; Cotton boll image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Water Scarcity In The Cotton Industry

The water debate is in the spotlight. Global companies are helping to raise the profile of the most pressing challenges of water shortage, but the other end of this supply chain is too often overlooked. For example, the water situation for cotton - an often overlooked consumer crop - is particularly critical. The earlier stories on this problem featured businesses such as- Clothing Companies Concerned about Water Risk.

The CottonConnect organisation has worked with 130,000 cotton farmers and their families in India, Pakistan and China, proving that basic interventions can make a huge difference to the water being used to grow cotton, one of the world's most thirsty crops. Working with brands including John Lewis, C&A Foundation along with the Better Cotton Initiative, to improve relationships with farmers on the ground, improve resilience and share best practice in basic agricultural techniques and technologies, in cotton growing regions of the developing world.

CottonConnect warns that more support is needed for smallholder cotton farmers as they grapple with the effects of water scarcity, putting the global cotton industry at serious risk. In their upcoming report, they find that:

In just 15 years there could be as much as a 40% shortfall of water supply to forecast demand in the global cotton industry (World Economic Forum). For example, water tables in China, India and Pakistan, once just 5 feet deep, are dropping by as much as 10 metres a year. (WWF)

2,700 litres of water is required to make just one cotton T-shirt - the same amount of water the average person drinks in three years (Better Cotton Initiative)

Although agriculture uses 70% of the world's water, rising to 90% in many developing countries, just 20-50% of the water withdrawn actually reaches the crops because it is often lost during transfer to the fields (WWF).

The Solution

The reports calls for the cotton supply chain to help take farmer training to scale to reduce increase yields and reduce the water footprint in cotton growing regions in the developing world:

Basic interventions such as farmer training and knowledge sharing on basic agricultural practices, have resulted in 30% reductions in water use among smallholder farmers.

Installing simple technologies, such as drip irrigation systems, have resulted in water savings of up to 60%.

With 100 million smallholder farmers growing cotton globally, the impact that can be had through providing access to learning and basic technologies is significant. To protect the cotton industry, brands need to get involved in supporting smallholder farmers in the developing world, which produces 90% of the world's cotton.