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Native Cotton as a sustainable alternative in the fiber market

With more than 10 years of work, HechoXNosotros have been promoting the development of the value chains of the finest Andean raw materials, such as the ones obtained from animals like llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanacos, and also silk and a variety of organic native cotton -that offers a vast quantity of colours and textures- as a solution to the problems brought by the cultivation of white cotton.

This variant of cotton we work with is known as "naturally farmed" because it is grown without the use of synthetic agrochemicals such as fertilisers or pesticides and without any genetic modifications on their seeds, which makes this process organically correct. The organic agriculture is a production method that protects the health of the soil, the ecosystem and people according to a series of standards of organic farming internationally recognised that depend on ecologic processes, biodiversity and cyclic harvests that adapt to local conditions.

Both varieties, the Pima cotton (known for it's long fibres), and it's ancestor, the native cotton, are types of cotton grown primarily in Perú. Native cotton is extremely durable and absorbent, it is considered one of the superior cotton blends. This variety is found in many colours that grow in the desert, it's fibres take their colour from the soil, achieving natural whites, gold, vicuña, and earthy red and orange. The native cotton represents the culture of the communities that guard it's seeds and methods of cultive, sowing and weaving, ancestral secrets that are true world heritage. 

In the ancient Perú, almost 5000 years ago, the people cultivated this cotton to fulfil some of their basic needs: clothing and fishing. However, during the XX century, native cotton was replaced by white cotton, because it signified lower costs and the possibility of a wider range of colours provided by the use of chemical dyes. On the other hand, white cotton also represents the use of a grand percentage of pesticides at a world level, millions of litres of water and cultivation methods that cause the desertification of the soil and the loss of native habitats and fauna, while also being one of the world's major sources of slave labor.

Organic cotton tries to put a limit on several of these damages, and it succeeds in part, but its value chain is far from being ethical and traceable. Fortunately, after having disappeared for a century, native cotton is once again being valued and used by the sustainable fashion industry. HechoXNosotros continues to promote the development and production of this natural fiber in Andean communities in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.

Photo Courtesy by Dr James M. Vreeland, Jr/Naturtex

Translation: Franco de Candia

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