Organic cotton is always one of the industry’s most debated topics. Although the International Cotton Advisory Committee’s (ICAC), 77th Plenary Meeting being held from 2-6 December, anticipated strong attendance and put out additional seating for its seventh annual World Café on ‘Organic Cotton: Challenges and Policy Perspectives’, the turnout far exceeded expectations.
The co-moderators of the session were eager to get started, as well. From the day the World Café was scheduled, Mr Bart Vollaard — Program Director at the Amsterdam-based Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on creating a prosperous organic cotton sector that benefits everyone from farmer to consumer — was excited about the session’s potential.
Mr Bart Vollaard said, ‘I was very pleased with the initiative of ICAC to host this World Café on organic cotton, and the invitation to the Organic Cotton Accelerator and GIZ to moderate it. It offered a great opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from each other about strengthening the sector and the role of organic cotton in the future. It is a great step toward much-needed collaboration and supporting each other to contribute to that one goal we all share: Ensuring a sustainable future for cotton and the farmers who grow it’.
The World Café is designed to give every attendee a voice by breaking the audience into groups of 8 to 12 people per table and encouraging them to debate and find consensus on challenging topics. For the entire morning, approximately 150 attendees discussed seven questions related to organic cotton, such as policies that can be enacted to support the sector, as well as what steps could be taken to make improvements at the farm level and throughout the value chain. At the end of the morning, all of the attendees reconvened in the main conference room and one representative from each group delivered some of the highlights from their table’s discussions.
Mr Wolfgang Bertenbreiter, Program Director with the German Development Group (GIZ), and co-moderator of the session said, ‘I was astonished by the overwhelming participation and engagement on the topic of organic cotton. One could almost got the impression that organic cotton is the most important topic.’
The initial responses that attendees shared when they reconvened already are encouraging, the moderators said, but the real work for Mr Vollaard and Mr Bertenbreiter begins now. They’ve gathered the hundreds of responses from attendees and will pore over them in the coming weeks, identifying and extracting the best ideas and most creative concepts that can be put into action on behalf of the organic cotton industry.
Even though he hasn’t seen all of the attendees’ ideas and suggestions yet, Mr Bertenbreiter was encouraged by the way the morning unfolded. He said, ‘It was great to see and observe the intense discussions on each of the seven questions, and the positive, constructive way people worked together to find answers to them.’