The two non-profits in partnership with the outdoor lifestyle brand released a feasibility study, “Cotton: Export Market Potential for Smallholder Farms in Haiti,” which supported the re-introduction of cotton to Haiti and proposed a new model that would connect small-scale Haitian farmers to the global economy. The report claims that cotton, once Haiti’s fourth largest export over 30 years ago, has potential to boost the nation again in terms of sustainability and citizen prosperity.
The study was a product of a five-year partnership between Timberland and SFA, where both entities established a model that benefited local Haitian farmers. Nearby farmers had the opportunity to voluntarily tend to a network of nurseries that produced up to one million trees yearly. For their volunteer work, farmers received crop seeds, seedlings, tools and training to increase their own crop yields and restore tree cover. This sustainable agriculture model helped 3,200 farmers increase productivity on their lands by an average of 40 percent, in addition to six million trees planted in Haiti. Furthermore, farmers increased their household income by an average of 50 percent and approximately 3,400 children of SFA members were placed in school.
Key factors from the study, including ideal growing conditions, considerable farmer interest and the availability of future agricultural best practices gleaned from global smallholder farmers, support the re-launch of cotton farming in Haiti. The study suggested that cotton be re-introduced with a better support system, which would prevent it from going through the same collapse it endured 30 years ago.
A potential solution for cotton growth would be to incorporate it as a rotational crop in mixed farms that tend to other grains, vegetables and livestock. As a rotational crop, cotton would contribute many agricultural benefits, including continued soil fertility, minimized labor shortage and reduced crop failure risk. The SFA system would also enable farmers to contribute to better environmental practices.
The new cotton study also said it is important for smallholder farmers to connect growing export crops with international markets. Impact Farming and AFA plan to introduce a new for-profit export, finance and marketing company to promote smallholder exports. “Haiti Impact Alliance (HIA),” a resulting partnership, is being developed with the Initiative for Smallholder Finance to implement a new wholesale export operation that will replace the traditional agricultural supply chain. This new system will foster a smallholder social enterprise that will expand beyond Haiti’s borders and continue to benefit local farmers.
“Over the past five years, we’ve been proud to partner with SFA to turn a simple tree-planting initiative into a sustainable business model for smallholder farmers,” Timberland director of sustainability Colleen Vien said. “Our hope in sponsoring this study, is that we can take steps to transition from being an early supporter of smallholder farmers in Haiti, to potentially being a customer, purchasing cotton for our own supply chain.”