The United Nations estimates one metric ton of cotton provides work for 5 people on average and improves the livelihood of about 100 million people worldwide.
The UN marked World Cotton Day on Thursday to highlight the importance of cotton to the global economy.
The cotton industry provides livelihoods for millions of smallholders and generates export revenues for some of the poorest countries. Therefore, it is a key contributor to achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
For the UN, this natural fabric “represents so much more than just a commodity,” it is “a life-changing product.”
Generally, rural labourers, including women, earn a significant amount from cotton growing. As part of this World Day, the UN aims to raise awareness about the vital role cotton plays in economic development, international trade, and poverty alleviation.
It seeks to emphasize the importance of sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
Cotton can be planted in arid and dry areas because it is resistant to climatic changes. Even though it takes up just 2.1% of the world’s arable land, it meets 27% of the world’s textile needs.
About 80% of cotton is used in clothing, 15% in furniture and the remaining 5% in nonwoven products, such as filters and padding.
Almost nothing is wasted when it comes to cotton. Besides textiles and apparel, edible oils and animal feed can be derived from the seed.
In recent years, cotton-based filaments have been used in 3D printers because they conduct heat well, become stronger when wet, and are more scalable than materials like wood.
In 2019, four cotton producers in sub-Saharan Africa – Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali – proposed to the World Trade Organization (WTO) a celebration on Oct. 7.
With the UN’s official recognition of the day, it became an opportunity to raise awareness about the need for access to markets from least developed countries, to promote sustainable trade policies, and to enable developing countries to gain more from every step of the value chain.
This goal has been the focus of UN agencies for many years.
Since 2003, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have helped the Cotton Four to improve production and local processing capacity as well as to discuss trade reforms to address high trade barriers.
Another UN agency, FAO, has long offered developing countries technical and policy support. One example is the +Cotton project, a cooperation initiative with Brazil that helps Latin American producers with innovative farming methods.
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