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Andy Salm moderated the closing session of day1 of the WCOC09, reporting back in plenary ‘results, news and secrets of the day’. The story telling process used for this session, as well as the other facilitation techniques adopted throughout the all congress, are quite original for an event of this size and type.
Most of the discussions so far have been taking place in small groups, to ensure a high degree of interaction and participation among the delegates. For each session, a rapporteur had been chosen, with the task not so much to write a formal report, but rather to write down on 5 cards the key points emerging from the group discussion. Andy’s job was then to go through this cards, and pull out recurrent threads and learning points. He shared these with the audience, and took few minutes with us to record the main ones with us in the blip below.
The World Congress on Organic Cotton kicked off this morning with its opening session. Three speakers provided food for thoughts and framed the issues that this congress will address in the coming days.
Melchior Lengsfeld form Helvetas recalled the work his organisation is doing on organic cotton and fair trade. Helvetas is committed already for several years in promoting sustainable management of natural resources. It now supports about 50000 farmers and families in producing and trading organic cotton. In his views, it is clear that nobody can promote and manage organic and fair trade cotton all alone; it’s only possible to do that by building true partnerships and working together along the value chain to make it sustainable. Farmers, processors, traders, retailers have different interests, hence it’s important to create spaces to discuss openly about the challenges ahead and understand each others. This congress aims at providing such opportunity for dialogue and exchange.
Peter Tschannen from Remei AG offered the perspective of a manufacture that recently switched all production to organic textile. For Peter ‘organic’ has been a choice of life for many years now, and in the 1990s together with Patrick Hohmann started a project with cotton producers in India. Their vision is to improve the leaving conditions of small farmers, integrate them in the value chain and make consumers aware of the issues of rural development and agriculture in developing countries. What started almost as an hobby is now a leading organization in the sector, described as a successful business model.
Today, organic cotton constitute almost 55% of all cotton consumption. Organic clothing has becoming mainstreamed, but a lot of challenges are still very much present.
To start with, farmers need training and education; besides, they are very vulnerable and affected by the current economic crisis. Besides, prices have to be decent and still in line with the market. All this requires patience and the creation of partnerships among producers, manufacturers and retailers all willing to work in a long term perspective and not keen on “quick money.” Further, we need to broad the perspective and not think only about cotton, but also about ecology and the all supply and production chain.
In this perspective, the WCOC 2009 provides a great opportunity to make the different stakeholders aware of the needs and enormous possibilities that are opening up in the sector; it’s the ideal platform to “share views and opinions and learn from each others.”
Lastly, David Bannell from Organic Exchange elaborated on the issues of broadening the perspective and moving the discourse from organic cotton to sustainable textile. Brands have power and decisions on all aspects of value change; they don’t see difference between cotton and other fibers, they are just interested in the product. Therefore, it’s crucial to talk now about sustainable textile, and to clearly define what we mean with it. Further, he recalled the importance of working together along the all value chain, advocating for more collaboration and less competition
Tobias Meier from Helvetas highlights aims and expectations for the World Congress on Organic Cotton. The event is meant to bring together the different actors involved at the different level of cotton value chain. He feels that there’s a need for the sector to move further, and many actors wants this move. Helvetas is keen to facilitating this process and provide a platform for partnerships creation and knowledge exchange.
The WCOC 2009 is opening in Interlaken with a full pre-congress day of workshops and face-to-face meetings.
This morning we started with a (very short) session on social reporting. The idea of this blog (and the other web spaces created around it) is indeed to capture the conversations as they happen here and bring them to the wider public to follow and participate virtually. Some 7 people from Helvetas and other organisations involved in the conference were present – see their introductury posts below here. Together, we went through the basics of blogging, ‘blipping’ and ‘tweeting’, and they will update this spaces over the coming days with short entries on the discussions that are taking place in here. They are very enthusiastic and keen to explore this way of conference reporting; we very much look forward to hearing their stories!
At the moment, the face to face meeting of the organic cotton platform is taking place. This presents an unique opportunity for the different people involved in the community to get to know each others, and discuss interesting ideas and potential collaboration that have been emerging in the online dialogue. A post on the outcomes of this meeting will follow later.
The programme of the day foresees also an introduction to the seminar on organic and sustainable textile for brands and retailers, and a session convened by Organic Exchange, to bring together its members for an update on the organisation and for discussing current issues.