Timberland Supports Cotton Farming Comeback In Haiti

(3BL Media/Just Means) - An old farming activity is about to make a comeback ​in Haiti ​after a 30-year absence. Cotton is being reintroduced as an anchor crop​ ​to boost the economy and also restore the environment of the country where forests have been decimated.

The announcement was made last week​ by l​ifestyle brand Timberland, the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) and Haiti’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Pierre Marie Du Mény. The launch involved the planting of the first seeds in the cotton field trials near Gonaives ​in the north of the country​. They planted ​cotton varieties from Brazil, India, and the U.S.​ as well as a local strain still popular in garden plots.

Next summer, the SFA will introduce cotton varieties that ​are best suited to local conditions and organic cultivation, ​so smallholder farmers can reap higher quality cotton.

The feasibility of reviving cotton in Haiti was inspired by the sucess of an agroforestry model developed by Timberland and the SFA over the course of five years. The program has succeeded in planting 6.5 million trees and helped increase crop yields and farmer income. A study concluded than the country is ideal from both agricultural and climatic perspectives.

The cotton initiative will be modeled after the original partnership, with smallholder farmers planting trees in return for valuable cotton seeds, agricultural tools and training for their own farms.

Timberland is commited to the project on two levels. One, it will fund the five-year iniative and second, it will purchase up to one-third of the Haitian farmers’ annual global cotton supply, subject to price, quality and volume.

The brand is also working with the SFA to engage other stakeholders ​within the industry and through its parent company VF Corporation. Sister brand Vans has also committed to support the program financially in its inaugural year​.​

It is​ estimated ​that​ within five years around 34,000 farmers (​from ​17,000 farms) ​will have become owner-operators of a new network of social businesses that will more than double their current income, plant a minimum of 25 million trees, and connect ​to ​both local and global markets.

The new network is also expected to increase the yields of food crops grown for local consumption and provide support to empower women farmers ​with ​micro loans, business training and leadership opportunities​. It will also ​provide access to a range of agricultural services typically available only to industrial-scale farmers.​

Image credit: Timberland