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Thursday
Jun282018

Exploring Cotton Potential in Puerto Rico

Yanna Muriel Mohan, Agricultural Manager of Visit Rico (left) with Timote Georges and Chris Kaput of the
Smallholder Farmers Alliance - Haiti, visit the the women-run textile cooperative "Cooperative Industrial
Creación de la Montaña" in Utuado, Puerto Rico.
GUEST WRITER > Chris Kaput, Smallholder Farmers Alliance

Last year a serendipitous meeting at the Textile Sustainability Conference resulted in an unplanned collaboration between our Haitian farmers and smallholders in Puerto Rico: a spontaneous and unsolicited effort to raise funds ended up helping providing over 100 Puerto Rican smallholder farmers with emergency financial support following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.  

Also, it was decided to collaborate on a feasibility study that would explore the possibility of reintroducing cotton to Puerto Rico as part of the recovery efforts following the storm. The study would be a joint initiative of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) in Haiti and Visit Rico in Puerto Rico, with support of Timberland and Textile Exchange.

It was in the framework of this study that last week Timote Georges (co-director of the SFA) and Chris Kaput (one of SFA’s Haiti Cotton Project Advisors) visited Puerto Rico. Goal of the trip was to get a better understanding of the history of cotton in Puerto Rico, visit potential sites where the cotton could be grown, and perhaps most importantly: to get a sense of the potential local market for organic cotton.

Timote Georges (left) talking with local natural fibers farmers Leonardo Laboy and Leila Mattina of
Trama Agrocultura.
The trip was a great success, with our local partners Visit Rico facilitating a wonderful program that included site visits to local farms, a women-run textile factory, a stop at the former San Juan Ginnery (Puerto Rico’s central processing site for cotton back in the early 20th century), and meetings with representatives of the local market (including local fashion designers and representatives of the artisanal crafts market).

Chris Kaput (right) learning from local farmer Miguel Cora about the history of cotton in Puerto Rico.If one thing became clear it was that there is a surprising amount of activity happening related to cotton and other natural fibers in Puerto Rico. Most importantly, our meetings confirmed that indeed there is tremendous potential to reintroduce cotton and create a local market for a cotton industry that extends from farm to fiber products to finished garments. 

These and other findings will be shared in the study, which is tentatively scheduled to be published by the end of July, 2018. 

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