Simple innovations to support organic cotton farming 


Brazil is the world’ fifth largest producer of cotton. And while smallholder farmers drive the production of organic cotton, it remains less than 1% of total cotton production.  C&A Foundation believes this must change.  

We support initiatives that help smallholder organic farmers gain scale and productivity, so they can increase their income, while working to transform the fashion industry into a force for good.  

The Meaningful Innovation Challenge

At the end of 2018, we partnered with the Brazilian NGO ESPLAR and World-Transforming Technologies (WTT) to launch the programme “Meaningful Innovation for Family Farming - Sustainable Cotton Challenge”.  The goal was to support simple innovations that can help smallholder organic cotton farmers to increase their overall productivity and living standards. 

Eight winning proposals were chosen from more than 40 applications.  They were selected by a panel of 22 judges, made up of specialists from research companies, international organisations, NGOs and government agencies. Amazingly, the entrepreneur Gilberto Barros had four of his proposals selected. Together the initiatives will receive €100,000 from the programme and will start implementation in March 2019.  

The Winning Initiatives

The eight initiatives chosen to help accelerate organic cotton for smallholder farmers in Brazil include:

  • Motorized Harvesters – by Joélcio Carvalho. This simple innovation is backpack equipped with a suction tube for harvesting cotton. This method makes cotton harvesting twice as fast for smallholder farmers, improving their efficiency.   
  •  Simplifying Renewable Energy – by Flávio Luna. This project enables farmers to produce oil and other by products from corn and sesame on their own property. Farmers receive training workshops, as well as advice on how to generate their own renewable energy to produce oil and other by products. As corn and sesame are usually grown together with cotton, this generates extra income for farmers.   
  • Making Organic Certification Assessment Processes Simple – by Laércio Meirelles. Laws in Brazil are making it more and more difficult for smallholder farmers in Brazil to receive and maintain organic cotton certification. This initiative will develop a simpler system and train farmers how to use it. 
  • Motorized Scythes – by Adriano Rodrigues. This initiative will convert motorcycles into a plow that can be used by farmer collectives.  
  • Manual Cotton Baler - by Gilberto Barros. In order to make cotton easier to transport, this initiative will offer cotton farmers the opportunity to bale their cotton on their own property using small pressing machines.  
  • Hydraulic-Pneumatic Press for Oilseeds - by Gilberto Barros. This initiative introduces a new technology capable of removing up to 40 liters of oil from seeds byproducts such as cotton, corn and sesame seeds.  
  • Hammer Mill for Crushing Seeds - by Gilberto Barros.  Using a similar technic to the hydraulic-pneumatic press, this initiative creates a machine to crush seeds to feed livestock. 
  • Cotton Seeds Retriever - by Gilberto Barros.  In order to reuse cotton seeds, they must first be cleaned of cotton fibers. This is typically done with the use of chemicals which are dangerous and harmful to the environment. This initiative is a safer method for removing cotton fibers using a flame instead of chemicals.