Education needed to cut water use amongst smallholder cotton farmers



Smallholder cotton farmers are facing major challenges as climate change increases water scarcity, a report from Cotton Connect has warned. In order to prepare the industry, the organisation advocates education and the implementation of effective agricultural techniques, ahead of World Water Week.

The report – More Crop Per Drop – argues that the challenges smallholder cotton farmers face could place the industry at risk, as the effects will ripple down. Cotton Connect calls for the supply chain to educate farmers on how to increase crop yields whilst cutting their water footprint.

Taking this route could have a huge impact on the industry, as over 100 million smallholders cotton farmers are responsible for 90% of the world’s cotton production. The report highlights how water intensive cotton is, noting that that for every t-shirt made around 2,700 litres of water is used across the supply chain.

However, the world is likely to face a 40% global shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water in the next 15 years. This gap will place significant pressure on the cotton industry.

Alison Ward, CEO of Cotton Connect, said, “Brands selling cotton clothes and homeware products are reliant on a supply chain which is severe climate change impacts and water shortages. It is in their interest to work closely with organisations that can influence cotton farmers in conserving and making better use of the water they have.”

She explained that by implementing simple measures farmers could improve their yields whilst simultaneously making significant water savings. By working with smallholders, NGOs and governments can help scale up these processes to make the cotton industry more sustainable.

World Water Week kicks off on August 31 in Stockholm, Sweden. The event will take an overall ‘systems view’ of how to develop and manage the energy and water challenges the world will face over the next 30 years as demands increase with finite resources.

Photo: Jay Phagan via Flickr  

Further reading:

Intelligence Squared: Water, Food, Energy, Climate – Smart Solutions for 2050

Half of world could face extreme water scarcity by 2095

Climate change creating ‘water crisis’ in Australia

London among cities facing pressure on water resources

Climate change puts more people at risk of water scarcity


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