WCS and the Conservation Cotton Initiative

In 2007, WCS and Edun, an apparel company founded by Ali Hewson and U2 frontman Bono, established the Conservation Cotton Initiative (CCI). This collaboration aims to improve the livelihoods of communities in Africa by investing in sustainably harvested “conservation cotton.” The program promotes development of eco-friendly cotton farming around high biodiversity areas to enhance incomes and economic development, improve resource management, and protect wildlife.

Challenges

In many of the countries where WCS works the agricultural practices are not sustainable. Farmers extend their fields to meet their families’ basic needs and turn to cash crops like cotton, for which there is international demand. Conventional cotton production relies heavily on chemicals, fertilizers, and water. Among its many adverse affects on human health and livelihoods, cotton production brings a decline in soil fertility and pollutes the surrounding land and water. Rural farmers who produce conventional cotton for sale to middlemen realize only a small profit.

Goals

  • Build a successful farmer-based enterprise incorporating organic production
  • Ensure that local farmers get the maximum benefits from organic farming through direct crop purchase and higher premium prices for organic cotton
  • Promote a grow-to-sew production in African countries, whereby not only raw materials but end products, too, are produced in Africa
  • Integrate resource conservation and sustainable practices into the production process

What WCS is Doing

CCI promotes the farming of organic, conservation-friendly cotton around high biodiversity areas in Uganda, Zambia, and Madagascar. The “conservation cotton” produced by CCI farmers will directly benefit the protection of wildlife and lands in areas of high biodiversity in Africa. Not only will the farmers enjoy health and economic benefits that come from eliminating the use of inorganic pesticides and fertilizers, they will also earn premium prices from high market demand for organic cotton and supporting, rotational crops and products. Participating farmers must commit to measures designed to control deforestation and protect wildlife. Making these incentives work is a key component of CCI, and the initiative’s success lies in linking market access for farmers to green practices.

From the Newsroom

Clothing with a ConscienceJanuary 7, 2008

“Conservation cotton” from Africa is making its way onto the backs of U2 fans across the world, thanks to a partnership between Hard Rock International, T-shirt company edun LIVE, and WCS.

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