The Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) represented Haiti at a meeting in Paraguay last month to discuss strengthening the cotton sector throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. And yes, the photo below is part of the story... keep reading.
Much of the meeting's agenda focused on the experience and needs of smallholder organic cotton producers in the region. While Brazil produces the most conventionally-grown cotton, it was surprising to learn that Peru is the regional leader in smallholder organic cotton. There are also significant smallholder cotton operations in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and other countries.
What was also surprising and gratifying was the outpouring of support for the SFA's efforts, in partnership with Timberland, to reintroduce cotton to Haiti with smallholder growers. The offers of help coming from the regional community of smallholder cotton growers was rather like being embraced by family members you only just discovered!
The government of Brazil and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) were the force behind this Paraguay meeting, which is in turn part of a larger ongoing effort to promote regional cooperation in strengthening the value chain for cotton--drawing on cooperatives, producers, retailers, NGOs and governments in the process.
A standout among the groups represented at the meeting was Natural Fashion from Brazil. They created a smallholder cooperative that grows organic cotton to supply the company's spinning operation, which in turn provides fabric for their line of clothing, toys and accessories. They specialize in natural colored cotton, with the result that their products do not use dyes. One of these products made its way to northern Alberta, Canada, and ended up as a Christmas present for my great nephew Tobias, shown above modeling a shirt from Natural Fashion's children's collection.
My personal goal is to have Tobias dressed in Haitian smallholder-grown organic cotton by the time he starts school in a few years--a goal made more realistic because of the many offers of help that were made to the SFA in Paraguay, including from National Fashion's CEO Maysa Motta Gadelha.