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Better Cotton Conference 2024 emphasizes farmer empowerment, industry ambitions

Industry News, News | July 10, 2024 | By:

Better Cotton

The Better Cotton Conference 2024 concluded on June 27 in Istanbul, Turkey, where over 400 attendees from around the globe joined virtually and in person.

“This year’s Better Cotton Conference has highlighted the crucial need for collective action in the cotton industry. The insights and stories shared over these two days emphasize that empowering farmers and integrating innovative practices are essential for a sustainable future. Our commitment remains steadfast in driving positive change for cotton communities worldwide,” says Alan McClay, CEO of Better Cotton.

Day one highlights

The first day of the Better Cotton Conference 2024 featured 18 sessions, including plenary talks, interactive workshops and breakouts, all focused on accelerating the impact on cotton farming communities.

The first theme, Putting People First, focused on Better Cotton’s commitment to prioritizing farmers and farm workers. The sessions challenged attendees to consider what it means to ensure a living income and decent work for cotton farming communities.

Aarti Kapoor, founder and executive director of human rights agency Embode, delivered a keynote on how individuals can drive positive impact across supply chains through a collective vision for the cotton value chain.

Lars Van Doremalen, impact director at Better Cotton, emphasized the importance of discussing farmer income and sharing insights from a study the organization conducted across India. Leyla Shamchiyeva, senior decent work manager at Better Cotton, highlighted the need to address root causes of issues such as poverty and lack of rights awareness by connecting communities to social safety nets.

In a one-on-one session at the Better Cotton Conference 2024 with Kapoor and Nazia Parveen, a Pakistani farmer from the Rural and Economic Development Society, shared her story of overcoming community barriers and emphasized the need for women’s empowerment in agriculture, advocating for equal opportunities for women to support themselves.

The afternoon sessions at the Better Cotton Conference 2024 shifted focus to Driving Change at Field Level with discussions covering a wide variety of topics from regenerative agriculture to the role of fertilizers in a warming climate.

A panel discussion featuring Laila Petrie of 2050 and Gray Maguire of Anthesis, moderated by Lewis Perkins of the Apparel Impact Institute, explored the complexities of carbon markets and their impact on farmers. They discussed the differences between insetting and offsetting, using the Unlock Project as a case study to highlight the importance of driving investment within supply chains.

Field-level representatives, including farmers and instructors from India, Tajikistan and the U.S., their experiences with adopting regenerative agricultural practices.

Day two highlights

The second day began with a focus on Understanding Policy and Industry Trends, examining major developments in the sector and their impact on cotton supply chains.

Vidhura Ralapanawe, executive vice president for innovation and sustainability at Epic Group, delivered a keynote speech emphasizing the need for transformative change in the cotton industry. He urged attendees to move beyond meeting legislative demands and work toward collective action to address pressing needs.

Sessions highlighted the need for all stakeholders, including farmers and suppliers, to actively participate in policy-making. Speakers called for a shift to include the most affected communities in discussions, ensuring legislation benefits smallholder farmers globally.

In the afternoon at the Better Cotton Conference 2024, the conversation moved towards Reporting on Data and Traceability. Better Cotton’s director of traceability, Jacky Broomhead, led a discussion on making Better Cotton Traceability possible. A panel shared insights on balancing regulatory compliance with profitability, the efficiencies artificial intelligence and automation could bring to the supply chain, and the role of traceability in achieving net-zero strategies. Panelists emphasized the need for simplicity in traceability to encourage adoption and reduce the burden on farmers.

Tülin Akın, founder of Tabit Smart Farming, shared stories of how agricultural technologies can help solve challenges in rural communities. She also highlighted the importance of face-to-face interaction for farmers.

This was followed by a session on Pakistan’s First Mile Traceability pilot, moderated by Better Cotton Pakistan’s director, Hina Fouzia. Farmers, middlemen and ginners discussed the challenges of internet and technology access, Better Cotton’s role in supporting adoption and the importance of constantly reviewing results to drive improvements.

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