Last month the revised Principles and Criteria of the Better Cotton Standard System took effect. But how do we ensure these key principles develop into tangible actions and results for those involved in Better Cotton production?
The answer is field-level partners.
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) does not train cotton farmers directly, instead we work closely with experienced partners in the countries where Better Cotton is grown. We call these field-level partners ‘Implementing Partners’, IPs for short. Each IP supports a series of Producer Units, which is a grouping of BCI Farmers in the same community or region. Producer Unit Managers oversee the training and support of multiple, smaller groups, known as Learning Groups.
Training is delivered to these smaller Learning Groups by Field Facilitators, these are field-based technicians, often with backgrounds in agronomy, who use practical demonstrations in the field. This training focuses on encouraging farmers to adopt agricultural best practice techniques, in line with the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria. At current BCI’s 70 Implementing Partners work with approximately 4,000 Field Facilitators across the globe.
Additionally each Learning Group is co-ordinated by a Lead Farmer, who facilitates training sessions for his or her members, creates regular opportunities to discuss progress and challenges, and encourages best practice in recording results. Through this cascade training process, training will be delivered to more than 1.5 million cotton farmers across 22 countries.
Over the coming months BCI will train IPs across the globe on the revised Better Cotton Standard, using an effective train-the-trainer model in China, India, Pakistan, Mozambique, West Africa, South Africa, Turkey and the US. Distance learning will take place for IPs in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. Training will provide IP staff with essential updates, valuable materials and best-practice suggestions for farmer training activities. Training will be adapted for different country contexts and tailored to address specific country challenges.
Successful training on the revised Better Cotton Principles and Criteria has already been completed for IPs in China. The BCI China Team organised a three-day cross-learning workshop in Lijiang, Yunnan Province for nine Implementing Partners, who together have a combined reach of 80,000 cotton farmers.
The training addressed all seven Better Cotton Principles and Criteria with an enhanced focus on biodiversity, water management and soil health, with training from Dr. Zeng Nan from The Nature Conservancy, Ms. Zhenzhen Xu from the Alliance for Water Stewardship and Dr. Li Wenjuan from Cotton Connect. IPs shared best practices on Integrated Pest Management and farmer capacity building. Mr. Zhang Wenzhong, Manager of BCI IP Nongxi Cotton Cooperatives said, “I have learned a lot from the [Better Cotton Principles and Criteria] workshop and from other IPs. I’ve worked as an IP for several years and I now have even more confidence in successful Better Cotton implementation in the future.”