RAHIM YAR KHAN – Pakistan this week saw the harvesting of its first organic cotton bale in the province of Balochistan in the south west of the country. The positive development has come about thanks to a partnership between C&A Foundation, WWF-Pakistan and the Agriculture Extension Department (AED) of Balochistan. At a ceremony to mark the occasion, Balochistan’s Agriculture Minister Engineer Zamrak Khan said the provincial government was committed to promoting organic agriculture throughout Balochistan, and would soon develop an organic agriculture policy.
WWF-Pakistan director General Hamad Naqi Khan said: “We have made a major breakthrough in the cotton sector of the country that will benefit stakeholders and the overall economy of Pakistan.”
Secretary Agriculture Balochistan Khaleeq Nazar Kiyani added: “The certification is a step towards a more sustainable Pakistan. Production of organic cotton will propel the cotton sector into a new direction,” he said.
Hundreds of farmers are already benefitting from a successful pilot started by C&A Foundation and WWF-Pakistan in the Lasbella district in 2015. The programme has trained 500 cotton farmers in organic cultivation practices. The partnership has huge potential to increase organic farming in the country, which is now the fourth largest producer of cotton in the world.
Over the next three years, C&A Foundation and WWF-Pakistan will extend organic cotton production within Lasbella, as well as into the Sibi and Barkhan districts of Balochistan. The shift to organic cotton will take place under the supervision of WWF-Pakistan and a certified verifying body, and the aim is to create a sustainable organic cotton farming industry.
Organic cotton farming is less water intensive than conventional farming practices and healthier for farmers, soil and wildlife, as it rejects harmful chemical fertilisers and pesticides.