This article is provided by BRC Associate Member CottonConnect.


New report shows how building resilience in smallholder communities is helping secure the cotton supply that global retail brands need

Pressure on retailers to prioritise climate action is increasing at both ends of the supply chain.

Market demand for retail products is changing as consumers become more conscious of the climate crisis and how their spending contributes to it. Interest in environmentally-friendly and ethical products is surging. As the BRC reports

Customers want to understand the climate impacts of the products they buy and make purchases that help them live lower carbon lives. These shifts in customer expectations are opening up opportunities for retailers to differentiate their offers and attract new customers, with climate concerns particularly marked amongst younger citizens.

At the other end of the global supply chain, changes to climate patterns and more extreme weather events are forcing adaptations to agricultural practices and technologies, causing adjustments to sourcing, and threatening long-term security of supply of key commodities. With these issues accelerating, the implications for quality, price and availability of goods are growing yearly.

In June this year, CottonConnect conducted interviews with over 100 women across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to find out more about the implications of climate change for women cotton farmers. Our Report , "Women in Cotton: Addressing the Impact of Climate Change through Climate-Friendly Practices" provides detailed insight into the challenges faced by women who play a critical but often unrecognised role in smallholder cotton production.

The Report shows that women are disproportionately affected by climate change. They told stories of how changing weather patterns, droughts, and floods are devastating crops and undermining their livelihoods and those of their agriculture-dependent communities.

Key findings show that extreme weather exacerbated by climate change negatively affects biodiversity, crop yield and pest control; and that women’s health and well-being is adversely affected but that they still shoulder more of the burden for the farm and the home, regardless of their own health issues or time limitations.

All of this threatens long-term supply of raw materials needed by global retail brands.

But findings also show that empowering female farmers through training in sustainable agriculture and climate change awareness is helping to create positive change. When they are trained, women farmers can play a crucial role in adapting to the crisis and reducing vulnerability. The Reports shows that when they are given the tools to succeed, women develop not only in farming but in running their finances, improving their health and wellbeing, and developing the confidence to share their learning with others. There are stories of how women farmers are taking learnings into their communities, setting up centres to sell affordable organic pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers.

From planting seeds to nurturing and harvesting crops, women are at the beating heart of smallholder farming that is the source of much high-quality raw material supplied to global retail buyers and made into the cotton clothes we love to buy and wear.

The women climate change ambassadors programme that features in the Report is developing ‘change leaders’ by instilling knowledge and awareness of farming practices that help them adapt to the impacts of climate change. From a pilot of 42 farmers in Gujarat in India, each woman has trained 30 more farmers, quickly imparting knowledge to over 1,200 women, expanding the programme’s reach and impact.

Successful programmes like this - that are sustainable, scalable and replicable - are demonstrating how we can achieve our ultimate aim of creating climate-resilient farming communities.

You can learn more about our ongoing efforts to develop women in the cotton sector in our Report And email us to find out about working with CottonConnect to support female empowerment and secure cotton supply.