UNECE and FAO are implementing blockchain tracing technology in cotton supply chains in Latin America. Demand is increasing from consumers for more traceability of their products to the origin and for more transparent sustainability credentials. Yet in countries such as Peru, 99% of the cotton production remains in the hands of family farmers, which often are not visible to the end consumer. As part of a joint capacity building effort, UNECE and the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, together with the + Cotton project, carried out a workshop on 6 December, to involve family farming cooperatives, industry associations and international organizations in the fashion industry to share solutions and scale up efforts for regional implementation.
This is the culmination of more than one year partnership between FAO and UNECE to bring to the ground the traceability approach and standard UNECE has developed, which is now allowing the launch of independent pilots across regions.
Experts from the region deep dived on challenges and opportunities faced. “With more than 700,000 jobs, 10% of the manufacturing production, and a growing demand for sustainable products, Peru has the capability to revive its sector and integrate small actors into global value chains by expanding production of high-end Pima cotton and bringing innovation and best practices to the region”, according to Rizal Braganini, President of the Sustainable Fashion Cluster of Perú.
FAO, through the +Cotton Project, is already implementing the UNECE-UN/CEFACT standard and methodology in Latin America, working with Costach Cooperative, which groups more than 5,200 farming families and is providing 10 tonnes of sustainable cotton production for a blockchain pilot, and with Creditex, which is one of the largest yarn producers in the region. Costach cooperative has recently submitted a pledge to increase traceability and transparency of the fiber production processes, woven yarn and garment manufacturing, with an end objective to trace the cotton fibre from field to shelf. And the event called for more of these pledges to be submitted in the region.
UNECE project experts held a demo on how to launch independent pilots to enable the autonomous scaling up of efforts with regional players and demonstrate the applicability of the methodology to the local context. The next phase of the project will see FAO leveraging its methodology through its network of partnerships at a global and regional level, bringing technical assistance on the ground, to replicate at scale this initial validation at a granular level with local actors and technology providers. Luiz Bedusci, FAO Policy Officer, stressed the importance of international and local strategic partnerships to increase connectivity in rural areas.
In April 2022, a more comprehensive workshop will take place to take stock of the project development in the region and the capability of the transparency and traceability framework and system put in place to enhance consumers’ visibility into the products they buy, while connecting local sustainable rural producers to global value chains and markets.