The Punjab Agriculture Department, Extension wing signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan’s (WWF-Pakistan) on ‘Better Cotton Initiative’ (BCI) here on Friday to undertake agriculture specific activities focused on widespread dissemination and promotion of the Better Cotton Standard System (BCSS) in the province.
The formal agreement was signed by Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General WWF-Pakistan; Dr Muhammad Anjum Ali, Director General AED-Punjab; and Lena Staafgard, Programme Director Global Supply BCI in presence of Muhammad Mahmood, Secretary Agriculture Punjab. The MoU forges a partnership of 5 years between the organisations starting from January 2017 and ending in December 2021.
To achieve BCI’s main objective of mainstreaming Better Cotton standards, the plan is divided into 3 phases which may work in parallel in different project areas. The first 2 years will make up the first phase of the project whereas WWF-Pakistan will work as the main implementing partner with collaboration in field implementation from AED-Punjab. The third and fourth year, the second phase of the project, will see a reduction in WWF-Pakistan’s role in direct field implementation activities and the organisation will assume the role of a strategic partner. In the third phase of the project starting from fifth year, WWF-Pakistan will continue working as a BCI strategic partner in the province and AED-Punjab will take over all field related implementation activities, as core BCI implementing partner in order to mainstream BCSS in the province.
Talking on the occasion Hammad Naqi Khan expressed his willingness to partner with other provinces in the country to help making agricultural commodities like cotton and sugarcane part of a sustainable industry and make its production environment friendly and reduce its footprint on priority ecosystems. “WWF-Pakistan believes in collaborating with all stakeholders and working together towards a sustainable future. Our organisation is already in a formal partnership with AED-Baluchistan for the capacity building of organic cotton farmers and plans to extend these good practices to other provinces soon.”
Dr Muhammad Anjum Ali welcomed the opportunity to be partner with WWF-Pakistan and looked forward to a sustainable agricultural future for the province.
Organic cotton is grown without using any chemical fertilisers or pesticides and is cultivated on land that is detoxified from residues of chemical fertilisers and pesticides over a period of at least 3 years. The seeds used to grow organic cotton are not genetically modified and are kept clean from chemical impurities during processing and packaging. The transformation will take place under the supervision of WWF-Pakistan and an independent certified verifying body, which will carry out vigilant inspection on the quality of the cotton crop.
According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics agriculture contributes about 24 percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for half of employed labour force. It is also the largest source of foreign exchange earnings for the country. Hence, agriculture plays a vital role in the economy of Pakistan and cotton is an integral part of it.