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World Earth Day 2024 | AbTF Fosters Innovation for Climate Protection and Biodiversity

In the run-up to Earth Day, which will be celebrated in 175 countries on 22 April this year, notable researchers and representatives of African cotton companies will meet in Tanzania from 15 to 18 April 2024 through the Innovations Club, which was established by Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and the African Cotton Foundation (ACF).

They will discuss how the latest scientific discoveries in the areas of climate change and biodiversity can be combined with traditional knowledge and applied to soil cultivation. The aim is to ensure that the African small-scale cotton farming sector has a future despite facing significant challenges due to climate change.

Tying in with Earth Day, workshop participants will also plant trees, thereby symbolically helping to meet CmiA partners’ target of planting more than 520,000 crop trees by 2025.

Climate change is presenting African countries with an increasingly wide array of fundamental challenges, including water scarcity and reductions in biodiversity and soil fertility. In response, both the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF), which administers CmiA, and ACF have long aimed to improve the living conditions of cotton farming families and to protect our Earth.

It is becoming urgent for the small-scale cotton farming sector, which plays a defining role in Africa South of the Sahara, to adapt to these circumstances. To address this need, AbTF and ACF, through the Innovations Club they established in 2023, are holding a four-day conference in Tanzania, at which soil researchers including Dr Adam Cobb (Soil Food Web School) and Keshav Kranthi (International Cotton Advisory Committee; ICAC), agricultural managers and consultants, and many other participants will meet for presentations, discussions, and practical demonstrations about soil health, environmental pest control, and ways of optimising cultivation.

The event will also have a practical component, with participants joining around 40 representatives from the cotton industry to practise implementing measures for sustainable agriculture and soil carbon sequestration and to demonstrate and discuss organic cultivation methods.

In addition to addressing the impact of climate change in the context of sustainable cotton cultivation, participants will plant fruit trees in order to draw attention to a major transnational effort by African cotton companies, which aim to plant over 520,000 crop trees in CmiA cotton-growing regions by 2025.

These trees—including lemon, orange, tamarind, avocado, neem, and guava trees—are intended to represent an additional source of food and income for small-scale farming families, thereby serving to strengthen their resilience as well.

Highlighting the significance of such initiatives and of the Innovations Club’s meetings, Alexandra Perschau, the head of standards and outreach at the Aid by Trade Foundation, says, “Climate change and its effects threaten the livelihoods of small-scale farmers at a fundamental level through crop failures, hunger, and the loss of biodiversity.

We can successfully push back by combining traditional knowledge with scientific discoveries and the latest technology to find innovative solutions for the agricultural problems of today.

This will benefit small-scale farmers and help to ensure an environmentally sustainable future for cotton cultivation in Africa.” Belinda Edmonds, the managing director of the African Cotton Foundation, adds, “Our workshop shows that with a holistic approach, where scientific expertise meets the real challenges of cotton farmers and stakeholders, we can bridge the gap between theory and practical implementation.”

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