Speakers call for efforts to promote organic cotton in Pakistan

Posted on 26 May 2022

Lahore, 26 May: ‘We need to promote economically efficient and environment friendly solutions for agriculture production in the country. There is an urgent need to introduce innovative and better management practices to improve production and the income generation capacity of farmers’. This was shared by speakers during a three-day workshop on organic cotton in Multan. Speakers called for organic cotton production which aims to bring sustainability by reducing the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and water. It was also stressed that organic cotton supports biodiversity conservation and promotes agro-forestry in Pakistan, whereas conventional cotton production practices, with excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, pose threat to a wildlife and lead to degradation of habitats and ecosystems. 
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Masood Arshad, Senior Director Footprint, WWF-Pakistan said that Pakistan is the fifth-largest producer of cotton in the world and has the third-largest cotton spinning capacity in Asia, after China and India. He also said that with thousands of ginning and spinning units producing textile products from cotton, it is the major source of income for many farmers across Pakistan. He added that WWF-Pakistan is promoting organic cotton with sustainable practices, which has resulted in a 22 percent reduction in pesticides, 12 percent reduction in the use of irrigation water and 19 percent reduction in the use of synthetic fertilizer, which ultimately reduces the per unit greenhouse gas emissions at the farm level, compared to cotton produced by non-participating farmers. ‘This has helped empower disadvantaged groups in the society who largely depend on cotton production’, he added.  
Syed Habib Shah, FP-DAE, Balochistan said that “We, in collaboration with WWF-Pakistan, are highly enthusiastic to promote organic cotton production and ensure its certification under the global organic standards. He added that Balochistan holds huge potential of organic farming and with joint efforts and some needed developments, we can earn a sizeable benefit for the farming community and the country’s economy.  
Asad Imran, Director Food and Markets, WWF-Pakistan said that organization strives to ensure sustainable production of cotton and reduce its negative impact on soil health, biodiversity and freshwater resources. He added that WWF-Pakistan is a pioneer in organic cotton cultivation and certification, and this was made possible with the generous financial support of Laudes Foundation as well as the support of the Department of Agriculture Extension Balochistan. He appreciated the interest of C&A and local textile groups in funding and sourcing organic cotton in Pakistan.   
Dr Shafqat Saeed, Dean, MNS University of Agriculture Multan shared that this is the time to develop synergies and shift our conventional farming to nature based farming. He said that at MNS University, we are experimenting and formulating best biological solutions to promote soil and plant health leading to support organic farming in Pakistan. 
During the workshop, Hafiz Muhammad Bakhsh, Manager, WWF-Pakistan gave the participants a complete orientation on organic cotton farming and the standard requirements for organic certification. He emphasized that serious efforts are needed to develop supply chain of bio inputs, particularly non-GM seeds, which is the fundamental requirement for organic cotton cultivation and certification. He added that we can contribute a big share of organic cotton in the world apparel industry if we ensure production and availability of non-GM cotton seeds and other bio-inputs.
While commenting on the event, the representatives of different textile groups acknowledged the efforts of WWF-Pakistan, the Department of Agriculture, Balochistan, and Laudes Foundation, which have collectively laid the foundation of organic cotton cultivation in Pakistan. They said that there is a high demand of certified organic cotton and the local textile groups are aligned to feed global cotton market with the certified organic cotton sourced from Pakistan.    
The traditional methods of cotton production use excessive water, fertilizers and pesticides which negatively impact our environment and contribute to pollution. It is also putting pressure on freshwater resources. To address this, WWF-Pakistan is building the capacity of farmers on sustainable cotton production as per the Better Cotton Initiative and Organic Cotton Standard System in some districts of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. WWF-Pakistan is working with more than 226,000 farmers across Pakistan.
Organic cotton plantation in Sindh
© WWF-Pakistan