The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), along with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), has launched the BCI Program in Egypt.
Through the initiative, an estimated 2,000 smallholder cotton farmers will receive training and support on instituting the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria so they can grow Egyptian cotton more sustainably, while also improving their livelihoods. BCI noted that by adhering to these principles, farmers produce cotton in a way that is measurably better for the environment and farming communities.
“BCI supports all initiatives that seek to make cotton production more sustainable,” Alia Malik, director of implementation at BCI, said. “Egyptian cotton, known for its superior fiber quality, is long staple cotton grown by smallholder farmers. Making the Better Cotton Standard System accessible to smallholder farmers is BCI’s priority–99 percent of the farmers BCI works with today are smallholders.”
Following a successful pilot project in 2019 and completion of the necessary new country startup process, Egypt officially became a new BCI Program country in May as part of a renewed drive in the country to increase sustainability and improve conditions for Egyptian cotton farmers. Last year, the Cotton Egypt Association upgraded its Egyptian Cotton branding efforts, including the introduction of a new accreditation process in partnership with Bureau Veritas that uses DNA technology to root out counterfeit goods.
The new BCI program is funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation as part of the Egyptian Cotton Project.
UNIDO will ensure that farmers receive the knowledge and tools to improve their agricultural practices in concert with the Cotton Research Institute and implementing organizations ALKAN and Modern Nile Cotton. Starting with the 2020-21 cotton season, farmers in Egypt who participate in the BCI Program may be eligible to receive a license to sell their cotton as “Better Cotton.”
BCI said in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, it acknowledges that travel or movement restrictions might interfere with assurance activities this season, which could potentially affect the licensing process, preventing farmers from receiving a license and Better Cotton from entering the global supply chain in 2020.