Biodiversity The Big Winner In Three-Year Project In Cotton Country

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Country Road, Landcare Australia and cotton farmers are marking Biodiversity month by celebrating a landmark achievement in their New South Wales Namoi Valley project

It’s been three years since ‘The Biodiversity Project’ kicked off in the Namoi Valley and since the first tree was planted, about 60 hectares of cotton farming land has been revegetated.

Cotton farmers in the Namoi Valley have worked with Landcare Australia to plant 11,800 seedlings along 11.6 kilometres of riverbank with long-term aims to improve waterways on their farms, and benefit nature as well as their agriculture production.

Landcare Australia has supported communities dedicated to restoring and preserving the natural environment for decades. In partnering with Landcare Australia, Country Road committed $600,000 in the first three years of the project and has since raised $790,000 for the project through sales of the iconic Verified Australia Cotton Heritage Sweat and brand contributions.

As part of the project, over 9  kilometres of fencing around water courses has been established to exclude livestock, with alternative drinking points installed – this will increase habitat and
shelter for native animals, as well as help improve water quality.

Cotton Australia’s Cotton to Market Lead Brooke Summers has been involved with The Biodiversity Project since its inception. “This project not only provides much needed funding and support for implementing biodiversity projects at farm level it also showcases what can be achieved when we work together on issues of mutual importance,” Brooke said.

“We know biodiversity is critical for sustainable cotton production and the planet as a whole and that we need to act fast to stop rates of extinction globally.  We need to work together through projects like this to find the balance between clothing the world in sustainable natural fibres, and protecting the natural resources we rely on.

“It’s been a true collaboration between Landcare Australia, Country Road, Cotton Australia, our biodiversity specialists and our farmers and everyone has brought something different to the table which has created a great opportunity for achieving a lot and learning along the way,” she said.

The partnership with Country Road and our work with the cotton industry is supporting biodiversity and landscape restoration benefits for cotton farms in northern NSW said Dr Shane Norrish, CEO Landcare Australia. “Over the last three years, the projects have been impacted by various external influences including covid and flooding, however Country Road are committed more than ever to supporting Australian cotton farmers improve the ecological and habitat restoration on the farming properties. Landcare Australia’s relationship with the cotton industry is vital to the work we are doing with the growers, their support and promotion of the famers to be involved in The Biodiversity Project has led to the success of the project. With the support from Country Road’s iconic brand position in the Australian fashion industry, together we can create greater awareness of landcare and the environmental stewardship of famers.

“Having the cotton industry as a part in this project is important as it helps us build trusting relationships with the growers. In addition, the research and biodiversity mapping from Cotton Research and Development Corporation has been important to ensure we are choosing sites that are in need of biodiversity enhancement as identified by the cotton industry.”

Country Road Brand Sustainability Manager Erika Martin said Country Road was proud to partner with Landcare Australia and the Australian cotton industry on The Biodiversity project to restore native habitats on cotton farms in the Namoi Valley.

“This partnership has shown how brands and industry can work together towards a shared vision,” Erika said.

“As we celebrate three years and reflect on what we have achieved, one of the highlights has been building relationships with the farming families. We are inspired by their commitment to ‘the long game’, by investment in building biodiversity now for the benefit of future generations.”

Cotton Farmer Daniel Kahl has been part of the project since it began but he sees the work as a continuation of work they’ve done in the past on his farm and others. “We’ve fenced and protected riparian zones on other farms to conserve natural landscapes; we utilise nature corridors and the benefits of natural predators to reduce pesticide use; we conduct carbon audits of our farm to ensure we’re doing our part to not just counteract our own emissions but do more than that. This project ties in with all of those endeavours.”

The partnership draws on a Cotton Research and Development (CRDC) report that mapped biodiversity in Australian cotton landscapes, identified threatened and endangered species and recommended ways to protect them.

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