A study commissioned by the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) has found that the environmental footprint of Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) cotton is reasonably better than other cotton-growing counties in terms of water consumption and climate change. The study also contains biodiversity impact assessment for cotton production in the cultivation regions.
Mainly CmiA cotton does better because it is cultivated by small-scale cotton farmers who depend on on rain and apply much less fertilizer.
The 2nd life cycle assessment (LCA) examined the effect of cotton farming on climate change, eutrophication, acidification, blue water consumption, and biodiversity.
CmiA said in a press release that in the course of the assessment, CmiA-verified cotton companies from Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Zambia completed questionnaires on their practices, and data was collected on factors like average farm size, crop yields, and fertiliser application rates.
CmiA cotton contributes only 1.24 tons of CO2 equivalents being released per ton of harvested CmiA cotton fibres against the expressively higher global benchmark of 1.43 tons.
In terms of eutrophication or the introduction of extreme levels of macronutrients into ecosystems, CmiA cotton scores poorer than the international average. This is mainly because many other cotton-growing areas see little rain, driving down the global LCA average for leaching levels, said CmiA.
Although there is still room for growth regarding field clearance, which causes high emissions as farmers scorch last season’s cotton plants before planting new ones, thereby releasing greenhouse gases and increasing soil acidification.
Its footprint can be further enhanced by composting crop deposit and returning it to the soil as humus instead of burning it. It would also be useful for more small-scale farmers to move towards no-till farming.
In this year’s LCA, the CmiA initiative supplemented the usual criteria with a new key parameter: the impact of cotton farming on biodiversity.
Since this is the first time that this impact category is being investigated as part of an LCA for cotton, it will not be possible to rank CmiA cotton in terms of biodiversity until other players in the cotton production sector publish comparative values.
The results of this assessment are considered to be representative of CmiA cotton as a whole because more than half of all CmiA cotton is produced in the three countries under study (Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Zambia).