As part of last year's human rights campaign "What should we dress with", UEM has initiated a programme to help Tanzanian farmers convert to organic cotton. In March 2020, Dietrich Weinbrenner, Commissioner for Sustainable Textiles, visited the Busega region in the north-west diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT), where the programme is being implemented.
One hundred farmers on a total area of 100 hectares are involved in the programme. In workshops they were taught the basics of organic cotton cultivation. They can make their own pest control products from plants that grow in their environment. Sunflowers, which the farmers plant along the fields, play a special role. A certain type of moth that threatens cotton plants is attracted by the yellow colour of the sunflowers and thus kept away from the cotton plants. In this way the farmers save the cost of the pesticides they used to spray and also no longer come into contact with the toxic pesticides. The sale of the sunflower oil obtained also provides additional income. The local company BioRe, which has been cultivating organic cotton in the region for many years, was won as a cooperation partner, providing the know-how and the necessary seeds. Another cooperation partner is the local company Bio-Sustain, which buys the entire harvest from the UEM programme. In this way, the farmers are financially secured.
Both the North-West Diocese of the ELCT and the district government of the region expressly support the programme. The Tanzanian government also wants to strengthen the cultivation of organic cotton nationwide and also to establish further production phases of the textile industry and thus the value creation in the country. Consideration is therefore already being given to extending this programme to other regions.
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