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Mozambique Wants to Be the First Country With 100 Percent Better Cotton

Mozambique, a global cotton production hub, is working with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to take its domestic cotton sector to the next level with additional economic and environmental efforts.

The Cotton Institute of Mozambique (IAM), a government body that is responsible for the nation’s cotton sector, tapped the BCI  to accelerate its cotton sustainability goals. In 2014, IAM and BCI agreed to a strategic partnership that upholds BCI criteria within Mozambique’s national cotton growing regulations. This move marked the first time a national government took on the Better Cotton standard—placing Mozambique on a better path to reach its goal of becoming the first country in the world to produce 100 percent Better Cotton.

Today, cotton remains a crucial industry to Mozambique—contributing to roughly one-fifth of the nation’s agricultural exports. Despite peaking at 182,000 tons in 2012, cotton production, on average, has remained considerably low over the past five years. Cotton yields in Mozambique have fluctuated, leaving many cotton processing plants unable to operate at capacity and properly plan for future production. While average yields have increased from 400 to 600 tons per hectare, sustainability challenges, including poor seed quality, loss of soil fertility and pest infestations have taken a toll on Mozambique’s cotton crops.

With its BCI partnership, Mozambique is aiming to bring its cotton sector back on track, with better environmental practices and the opportunity to grow its global presence.

BCI’s presence provides a host of benefits for Mozambique’s cotton sector—including providing cotton producers access to new markets, collaborating with local cotton organizations for optimal production and upgrading concession holders’ extension services for farmers.

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To date, many brands, including Adidas and C&A, have pledged to use 100 percent cotton from more eco-friendly sources by 2020. With BCI, Mozambique’s cotton producers can establish new market relationships that reduce price volatility risk—and work with these brands to meet their sustainable cotton benchmarks. Additionally, BCI will enable cotton producers, local cotton organizations and international bodies to work together on minimizing the cotton sector’s carbon footprint.

BCI also has a capacity building program in Mozambique that monitors the nation’s cotton supply chain. Rather than check cotton compliance standards through licensing, BCI invests in capacity building up front by upgrading concession holders’ extension services and providing farmers with training to meet the Better Cotton standard. National associations, government bodies and cotton companies will also receive training on BCI’s Better Cotton system, so they may apply more sustainable cotton practices on a national scale.

[Read more about cotton’s sustainability progress: Organic Cotton Guides From Kering and TE Meant to Make Sourcing Easier]

BCI’s involvement in Mozambique’s cotton sector has already yielded environmental progress—including allowing farmers to promote a more circular economy.

In 2014, after BCI and IAM formed a partnership, the number of Mozambique farmers growing Better Cotton increased to 75,000. BCI data also said farmers’ productivity was higher than conventional cotton farmers, profitability was 65 percent higher and yields increased 57 percent that year. In 2015, BCI the number of licensed farmers jumped to 78,912 and 17,000 additional farmers received capacity building support from BCI.

Farmers that have pledged to the Better Cotton standard have made Mozambique’s cotton sector more sustainable. Over the past few years, farmers have practiced crop rotation, incorporated practices that retain soil moisture and reduced the pollution of nearby water sources with proper run-off management.

As part of its ongoing relationship with BCI, Mozambique is currently developing its own sustainable cotton production standard, which will be based on BCI’s criteria and include additional environmental principles that cater to its own cotton production needs. BCI and IAM are also developing certification bodes in Mozambique to conduct third-party audits of cotton producers nationwide. Additionally, BCI will approve Mozambique cotton by ensuring that cotton grown by BCI licensed farmers in Mozambique can be sold as certified Better Cotton on a global scale.