Cotton can reduce carbon emissions and poverty

Climate change is leading to an increase in the number South Africa’s cotton farmers. 

Not only does the crop thrive in hotter climates with lower rainfall, but it can provide a living to small-scale farmers.

An analysis of the prospects for increased cotton production, and the successes of the global Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) in promoting more sustainable practices in cotton farming in South Africa, is featured in Farmers Weekly.

Hennie Bruwer, CEO of Cotton SA, outlines the challenges and successes.

“Ironically, we’re currently seeing, and will continue to see, an increase in the number of cotton farmers in South Africa as a result of climate change. This is because cotton can better withstand drier, hotter, conditions than other crops grown here.”

Bruwer says more government support is needed, because the government doesn’t always recognise the full value of cotton.

“Prices are at their second-highest in history, and the high protein content of cottonseed means it makes good livestock feed. It also produces good quality oil.

“For farmers living in hotter climates with no access to irrigation, there’s no better crop than cotton,” he says. “Even with low rainfall, the yields are still sufficient to earn a living, provided the rain falls at the right time during the growing period.”

Between 60% and 70% of South African cotton farmers have Better Cotton Initiative accreditation. This means that most are already implementing systems that make them more resilient and sustainable, and their product more acceptable to consumers. The aim is reach 100% accreditation.

Cotton is a carbon-neutral crop. Cultivating it doesn’t create more carbon than what is sequestered by the plant, so there no carbon footprint in the cultivation of cotton.