Sustainable Cotton Raises Funds for Puerto Rico

October 13, 2017
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On Wednesday, leading figures in the sustainable cotton field from around the world were attending the Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference in Washington, D.C. and heard a heart-wrenching first-person report from farmer Yanna Muriel Mohan about the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria on organic smallholder farmers in Puerto Rico.
LaRhea Pepper (right), Managing  Director of Textile Exchange, presenting a check to Yanna Muriel Mohan, Agricultural Manager of Visit Rico, with Timote Georges (left), Executive Director of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) and Hugh Locke (second from left), President of the SFA and President of Impact Farming.
Just minutes before Yanna spoke about her work as an agricultural manager with the non-profit Visit Rico, there had been a panel presentation on “Scaling the Use of Sustainable Cotton.” A connection was made in the minds of several in the audience: how could scaling sustainable cotton help Puerto Rico, particularly since cotton had been absent from the country for decades.
Rural agricultural devastation in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. Photo: New York Times.

The Timberland member of the panel preceding Yanna had spoken about the company’s support for an innovative program to reintroduce organic cotton cultivation with smallholder farmers in Haiti following a 30 year absence. Farmers receive seed, tools and training by planting trees in this agroforestry initiative run by the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA).

Within a few hours the dots had been connected and Timberland made the first contribution to launch the Puerto Rico Cotton Fund under the joint auspices of the Textile Exchange and Impact Farming, the international affiliate of the SFA. Eileen Fisher, Lenzing, Westpoint Home and a number of other companies represented at the conference soon added their support, and many of the attendees made individual donations.
By the close of the conference yesterday the total raised was $29,278. Half the funds will be disbursed by Visit Rico as emergency micro-grants to smallholder farm families and the other half will be used to develop a smallholder recovery program in Puerto Rico including, but not limited to, an organic cotton model that follows the one being used in Haiti.

About Visit Rico
Visit Rico is a non-profit organization in Puerto Rico whose mission is to strengthen the agricultural economy by providing training for smallholder organic farmers and linking them to local markets and sustainable tourism in the area. Visit Rico’s ultimate goal is to achieve food sovereignty for Puerto Rico, and their work is supported by Slow Food International, the Foundation for Puerto Rico, Boricua Organization of Agricultural Ecology, and the Conservation Trust’s Para la Naturalezadivision. For more information visit www.VisitRico.org
About Textile Exchange
Textile Exchange is a global non-profit that works closely with our members to drive industry transformation in preferred fibers, integrity and standards and responsible supply networks. We identify and share best practices regarding farming, materials, processing, traceability and product end-of-life in order to reduce the textile industry’s impact on the world’s water, soil and air, and the human population. For more information visit www.TextileExchange.org
About Impact Farming
Impact Farming works with smallholder farmers internationally to scale business solutions that integrate sustainable food production with increased tree cover and self-financed community development. Impact Farming also supports the work of the Haiti-based Smallholder Farmers Alliance. For more information visit www.ImpactFarming.org

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