10.11.2017 · Category: Cotton Production Pakistan

Pakistan’s Sustainable Cotton Production Goes Forward

Chaudhry Sajjad Ahmad owns one of the 60 SMEs supported by the SWITCH-Asia project 'SPRING'. After the project closure in 2015, he is still integrating the project's recommendations to improve the environmental performance of his company. (Source: WWF-Pakistan)

One and a half years after the closure of the SWITCH-Asia project SPRING, that promoted sustainable cotton production among Pakistan's cotton ginning SMEs, former team members visited one of the companies previously involved with the project.

Led by WWF-Pakistan, between 2012 and 2015 SPRING promoted Better Ginning Practices (BGPs) pertaining to energy efficiency, mechanical efficiency, fiber quality preservation and improvement of working conditions in the Pakistani cotton ginning sector.

Out of more than 1,200 SMEs active in the country's ginning sector, the SWITCH-Asia project provided one-on-one technical support to 60 SMEs. To 500 more, it disseminated BGP recommendations through training workshops, on-site demonstrations, provision of training manuals and documentaries.

As a result, the project estimates that between 2013 and 2015 60 ginning SMEs invested PKR 114 million (ca. EUR 937,000) in order to adopt its recommendations (e.g. installation of improved ginning machines, overflow belts and improvements in power factor plants).

In August 2017, the former SPRING project team visited Mian Cotton Ginning & Press Mill, in Bahawalpur, one of the 60 SMEs that had been supported by the SWITCH-Asia project. Owner Chaudhry Sajjad Ahmad was pleased to see the members of the former SPRING project team in his factory. He enthusiastically remarked how SPRING has changed his way of thinking about ginning, which he now considers as an industry and not just a trading place to buy seed-cotton and sell lint.

As cotton ginning tends to be the most ignored segment of the cotton supply chain in Pakistan, none of the technical and academic institutions produces qualified ginning personnel. "We had to rely on traditional mechanics and had obsolete, self-acquired knowledge or learnt from experienced mechanics already working in the industry", said Sajjad. "Via the SPRING project, for the first time attention has been paid to the ginning sector in Pakistan, finding gaps, providing scientific solutions to our problems along with building the capacities of technical staff of the ginning SMEs to implement the proposed recommendations", he continued.

As recommended by SPRING, Chaudhry Sajjad Ahmad started switching to solar energy in his SME. (Source: WWF-Pakistan)

"As the SPRING project induced a curiosity to analyse the issues and explore efficient and eco-friendly solutions, last year I replaced old ginning machines with efficient and improved machine models", he announced. Compared to the old machines, which cost about PRK 350,000 each (ca. EUR 2,900), an improved one costs about PRK 500,000 (EUR 4,100). On average one ginning factory has a set of 5 to 6 ginning machines. In addition, he replaced old electric motors with the efficient ones, which resulted in a 16% reduction of energy consumption from 18 kWh per bale to 15 kWh per bale. If prior to the project the SME used to consume 450,000 kWh of electricity per season, after the uptake of the recommendations by SPRING it now consumes 375,000 kWh per season.

Additional benefits resulting from these modifications include a significant reduction in dust and noise pollution, providing for a cleaner, safer and more productive working environment. On average, ginning SMEs employ 7-8 permanent workers for the whole year, with additional 20 - 30 temporary workers during the season. Commonly the cotton ginning sector remains functional for about 120 days, from September to December or October to January, according to the availability of Seed Cotton.

"The reduction in overall production costs also enabled me to introduce an improved remuneration package for my workers who are expert in implementing the recommendations we received from the SPRING team", said the factory owner. The 2-3 technical staff who received training by the project now earn additional 8-10%, he explained.

Besides improving the resource efficiency of ginning operations, the enterprise also took steps towards renewable energy source by improving the energy efficiency of the lighting systems in the administration and accounting departments and starting to integrate solar energy. Before switching to solar energy, the average monthly electricity bill of the administration building amounted to PRK 76,000 (EUR 624). "This switch to solar energy enabled us to save a handsome amount of PRK 25,000 (EUR 205) per month regarding electricity bill, thus saving around 30% of our operating costs", added Sajjad.

20 months after the end of SPRING, different sets of BGPs are still being implemented by almost all of the 60 ginning SMEs, according to their own conditions and requirements.

To ensure a long-term continuation of the project endeavors and the sustainability of technical support, WWF-Pakistan as well as the Pakistan Cotton Ginners' Association encourage all relevant stakeholders to coordinate in order to establish a ginning institute that could deliver qualified personnel for industry.

Authors: Asad Imran and Masood Khan (WWF-Pakistan)
Editors: Kartika Anggraeni and Silvia Sartori (SWITCH-Asia Network Facility)