The Milliner Cotton Organic project harvested its first-ever certified in transition organic cotton crop this season, a milestone that Omer Ahmed, CEO of parent Artistic Milliners, described as “the first of many to come.”
The cotton gathered in the Kohlu, Baluchistan region of Pakistan, where Artistic Milliners is based, marks a new achievement for the Milliner Cotton Organic project, a collaboration with Danish fashion company Bestseller focused on advancing value chain transparency in the organic cotton sector. The project will use the momentum it’s gathered over the past two years to transition to the Farmer Engagement and Development (FED) Programme in the Organic Cotton Accelerator, a multi-stakeholder initiative fully focused on championing organic cotton. FED aims to give farmers greater security while advocating for better organic cotton prices.
Ahmed praised the crop harvest as “a game-changer in the cotton industry of Pakistan.”
“We are here to bridge the gap between organic cotton supply and demand” for Bestseller, a long-time brand partner, he added.
Ahmed said the Milliner Cotton Organic project, which works with more than 2,000 farmers and nearly 9,300 acres of land, ran into trouble getting its hands on “good quality organic cotton seeds” early on.
“We had very few hundred seed bags to provide to the farmers,” he said. “For us, every challenge came with a learning opportunity. For this upcoming season, our implementation partner World Wildlife Fund supported us to procure 9,500 non-GMO seeds worth PKR 30 million [$147,000] and distributed them for free among the 2,000 farmers of Kohlu.”
Haju Bangul, a Kohlu farmer working with the Milliner Cotton Organic project, outlined the experience of transitioning to harvesting organic cotton a year after joining the effort.
Last year WWF, Artistic Milliners and Government of Baluchistan, Agriculture Extension Department “taught us about organic cotton farming and the organic pesticides preparation method and gave us one bag of organic seeds,” Bangul said, pointing to WWF’s automated machine which prepares 5 liters of organic concentrated pesticide from 40 kg of plant-based substance in one hour.
Bangul said WWF and Artistic field facilitators visit his farm weekly and offer support from seed sowing through cotton harvest.
This year, Bangul said a single bag of seed nearly doubled his yield compared to previous years, harvesting about 4,674 pounds of cotton versus roughly 2,050 to 2,460 pounds.
Switching to organic, he added, offers “ecological and health benefits” as well.
“The synthetic pesticides were harming my co-worker’s health,” he continued. “After the cotton harvest, I planted wheat, and my land is giving yields better than ever. I thank WWF, Artistic Milliners and the Government of Baluchistan for their support.”