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Timberland Helps Rebuild Haiti’s Cotton Industry

By Brian Collett

Cotton farming has returned to Haiti under the sponsorship of Timberland, the New England outdoor lifestyle brand, after a 30-year absence.

The crop has been reintroduced to the devastated severely deforested island state to revive agriculture and garment manufacturing, boost the economy, raise incomes and aid environmental restoration.

Smallholder farmers are planting trees to earn cottonseed, tools and training. The same farmers will sell to Timberland, which has agreed to buy up to a third of the cotton it requires from Haiti if the price and quality are acceptable and enough is produced.

A total of 34,000 cotton farmers working 17,000 farms are expected to be in business within five years.

During that time at least 25 million trees are due to be planted and the cotton businesses estimate their incomes will be doubled. Alongside cotton, farmers intend to increase food yields for local consumption.

Haiti’s Smallholder Farmers Alliance hopes this growth will empower women farmers through microloans, business training and leadership opportunities.

The alliance and Timberland are looking ahead to the summer when farmers will introduce the best-quality cotton varieties, which adapt readily to local conditions and organic cultivation.

Timberland sees the cotton program as socially responsible business as it is line with the company’s business strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the impact and results can be measured. In addition, the company has made a firm commitment at all levels, is engaging with employees for company-wide support, is joining with credible partners for best outcomes, and is communicating its activities and their results to customers and other stakeholders.

Atlanta McIlwraith, Timberland’s senior manager of community engagement, said: “Thousands of smallholders earned better grain and vegetable seeds, farm tools, training and other services [after the company first supported Haiti agriculture in 2010] by growing and planting close to 6.5 million trees to date.

“The next chapter in this story follows on from a feasibility study, which determined that it makes sense to reintroduce cotton to Haiti, and Timberland now aims to evolve its role from being a sponsor to becoming a customer for organic cotton.”

Pierre Marie du Mény, the commerce and industry minister, offered encouragement: “On behalf of the Haitian people I want to thank Timberland and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance for bringing cotton back to Haiti. This is a big opportunity for the country and the people of Haiti.”

Photo: Thomas Noreille / SFA

This story originally appeared on 3BL Media.