The Puerto Rico Cotton Fund, an initiative launched at the 2017 Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference, announced that it has raised more than $30,000 for victims of Hurricane Maria. The conference was held last month in Washington, D.C.
The funds were pledged toward immediate aid, emergency micro-grants to smallholder farm families and the development of a smallholder recovery program in Puerto Rico. The fund will remain open until the end of 2017.
After a heartfelt message delivered at the conference by Yanna Muriel Mohan, a farmer and agricultural manager of Visit Rico and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, attendees were informed of Hurricane Maria’s destructive impacts on organic smallholder farmers in Puerto Rico. Visit Rico is a non-profit organization that aims to strengthen Puerto Rico’s agricultural economy through sustainable tourism. The firm said it aspires to “achieve food sovereignty” for the nation.
Preceding Mohan’s speech, outdoor wear brand Timberland discussed its program, “Timberland x SFA,” that reintroduces organic cotton cultivation with small holder farmers in Haiti. Through the initiative, farmers receive seed, tools and training in return for planting trees in an agroforestry program run by the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, the company said. The model supplied more than 3,200 Haitian farmers with requisite tools for increasing overall productivity on their farmlands. After hearing Mohan’s speech and “connecting the dots,” Timberland launched the Puerto Rico Cotton Fund by making the first contribution toward the cause.
And companies such as Lenzing, Eileen Fisher and Westpoint Home also donated to the fund, among additional donations from conference attendees. In further support of the fund, Textile Exchange allied with Impact Farming, an organization that works with smallholder farmers worldwide to provide scalable business and agricultural solutions for sustainable food production and enables access to credit, markets and other services. Impact Farming is the founder of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance.
Zack Angelini, Environmental Stewardship Manager at Timberland, told WWD, “Connecting the dots between the [Timberland] panel discussion on sustainable cotton and the devastation faced by smallholder farmers in Puerto Rico, we mobilized efforts and used the momentum of the conference to address this pressing issue. Within hours, we had devised a plan to launch the Puerto Rico Cotton Fund, half of which will be dispersed as emergency micro-grants to smallholder farm families and the other half will be used to develop a smallholder recovery program in Puerto Rico including, but not limited to, an organic cotton model that follows the one being used in Haiti.” Angelini added, “It was incredible to see how quickly everyone responded when this opportunity presented itself.”
And Luna Lee, the human rights leader at Eileen Fisher, told WWD, “After hearing first-hand the devastation of Hurricane Maria from farmer Yanna Muriel Mohan, we felt compelled to contribute alongside other brands at Textile Exchange to the organic smallholder farmers in Puerto Rico to make a positive impact. It is a reminder that environmental issues are human rights issues, an area of utmost importance to Eileen Fisher.”
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