Israeli cotton farmers  joined BCI last year.

Germany’s Federal Ministry has awarded a grant of 2 million euros, or $2.14 million, to the Better Cotton Initiative‘s Growth and Innovation Fund.

The fund helps BCI advance its goal of reaching 5 million farmers and accounting for 30 percent of global cotton production by 2020. In 2016, the fund invested more than 5 million euros, or $5.36 million, in projects. The Federal Ministry contribution will enable a significant scaling-up of the portfolio for the next season, BCI said. The ministry also became a BCI member.

The funding will be invested globally in training and capacity-building to address sustainability issues in cotton farming, including pesticide use, water efficiency and severe working conditions such as child labor, gender issues and unfair pay, BCI said.

Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, said: “Making globalization socially and environmentally fair — that is our common goal, both in our Textiles Partnership and in the Better Cotton Initiative. BCI is a leader in the effort to achieve better environmental and social standards in cotton production. Together with the private sector, civil society and producer country governments, we are defining standards.”

Alan McClay, chief executive officer of BCI, noted that the BCI Growth and Innovation Fund is a global partnership fund set up to support Better Cotton farmers around the world. BCI currently has 66 retailer and brand members who contribute to the fund and McClay said “global institutional donors and government agencies are invited to match the contributions from the private sector to achieve a multiplier effect. We look forward to working closely with BMZ as a key partner in achieving our goals.”

BCI’s key goals are to reduce the environmental impact of cotton production, improve livelihoods and economic development in cotton-producing areas, improve commitment to and flow of Better Cotton throughout supply chain and ensure the credibility and sustainability of the Better Cotton Initiative.

The Geneva-based organization included 1.6 million farmers worldwide at the end of 2015, a 23 percent increase from 2014. Licensed BCI farmers produced 2.6 million metric tons of Better Cotton, up 34 percent from the previous year and representing 11.9 percent of global cotton production.