Archive for October, 2022

Ulaanbaatar Conference 2022 | Summary

Posted by Fiona Jones

On 9 September, 2022, the Sustainable Fibre Alliance organised the Natural Fibre Connect conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The event welcomed 120 in-person guests representing 17 provinces, 58 herding cooperatives, processors, partners, academic institutions, as well as government and non-government organisations. An additional 11 thousand guests attended virtually through the SFA’s live-stream of the conference on Facebook.

Talks were held throughout the day along with a series of working group breakout sessions to discuss the following important themes:

1. The need to focus on the social issues of herders

2. Natural fibres – becoming the driving force of the rural economy

3. Livestock Breeding and Care Realities – Challenges for Farmers and Cooperatives

4. How Chain of Custody and Traceability are Changing the sector?

5. How to support cooperatives with green financing?

Herder cooperatives and communities discussed the importance of maintaining fibre quality alongside sustainability, and the need for affordable veterinary care and subsequent medicines. One of the main takeaways relating to animal care was that if good conditions (health care and water quality) are maintained in line with international standards, waste would be reduced and herder lifestyles would also be improve. Water quality was highlighted as a major issue, with a large percentage of families using wells which can lead to hygiene concerns. Artificial insemination was also a topic of discussion as a viable option to maintain the sustainability of herder lifestyles.

Other key takeaways related to social protection and health insurance. Herders were encouraging to conduct medical examinations for themselves at minimum twice a year; herders were also urged to partake in the extensive ‘herder health insurance’ to protect their finances and maintain social protection, especially due to the risky nature of their jobs. Linked to this, it was determined that labour safety standards on par with international guidelines need to be introduced, implemented and monitored in herding groups.

Furthermore, protecting herders through education and training was emphasised as paramount, so that they can better understand and utilise tools like satellite imagery, GPS and identification services. These technologies can be applied in order to facilitate surveillance activities and monitor where their livestock are grazing.

To close out the conference, more information was shared regarding the new collaboration between the SFA and Khan Bank, one of the major commercial banks in Mongolia, which is providing preferential loans to certified herding families and cooperatives.

As the Mongolian government expands and creates more positions with the priority of protecting the cashmere industry, social protection for herding communities should become a bigger consideration. Additionally, creating better incentives for sustainable change within the industry would aid both Mongolian herding communities and the national economy.

Natural Fibre Connect | Virtual Conference Summary

Posted by Fiona Jones

Understanding the Growers & Herders perspectives is key to building better textile fibre supply chain partnerships to accelerate innovation and sustainability

On 7-9 September 2022 the Natural Fibre Connect online conference for the alpaca, cashmere, mohair, and wool industries completed successfully. 

Over 1000 tickets were sold for the live event and on-demand content platform to participants from 43 different countries. For 6 hours on each of the three conference days, over 80 speakers shared their knowledge across 9 key themes such as animal welfare, social welfare, regenerative agriculture, traceability, green finance and the metaverse. Majority of the presentations were available in English, Spanish, Chinese and Mongolian. 

Highlights of the event, were speeches from His Majesty King Letsie III from Lesotho, Artist Michelangelo Pistoletto as well as La Rhea Pepper, CEO of Textile Exchange. 

Recordings of all live presentations and discussions are available on the platform along with additional on-demand content until the end of the year.

In addition to the live conference, ticket holders also had access to a virtual exhibition hall where close to 40 different sponsors representing the Alpaca, Cashmere, Mohair and Wool industry exhibited their organizations and projects. Visitors to the virtual booths were able to connect and interact with the respective booth representatives. 

The Natural Fibre Connect conference has highlighted the challenges of the textile industry of natural fibers of animal origin, considering current global trends. Industry experts, opinion leaders, breeders, brokers and brand representatives have shared their experience, concerns, limitations and challenges the industry faces in the light of new consumer demands.

One of the most important conclusions was that sustainability has multiple dimensions: environmental, economic, social and cultural; only when all four dimensions are being addressed progress in areas such as climate change, desertification and animal welfare can be achieved. This became apparent in the discussions around traceability and green finance where efforts need to go beyond Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) or animal welfare standards and instead must consider economic and social dimensions as well. 

The argument can however also be reversed. Improving livestock and regenerative practices and certifying them requires financial resources and the commitment and partnership of the entire value chain. Speakers of the green finance session have shown that funds exist and that the natural fibre industries must work together to tap into this massive opportunity. 

Speakers of the Web 3.0 session also gave a glimpse into how the metaverse and blockchain technology will change supply chains, on-farm data management as well as consumer interaction with textile products and the people working in textiles. The transformational power of the new technologies is the future of the industry and will connect us in ways we cannot imagine today

The event was closed with growers and herders connecting live from Australia, Mongolia, China, South Africa and Argentina to share their perspective, challenges, questions and ideas with the supply chain.  

Participants by industry sector