Puerto Rico Natural Fiber Project: From Farm to Fabric

Project Description

Cotton was once one of Puerto Rico’s primary agricultural exports, until the collapse of the country’s local cotton industry in the 1930s. Now that cotton is being reintroduced in Haiti (see the Haiti Cotton Project I’m working on with the SFA and Timberland), we are now looking into using our experiences there to also help smallholders in Puerto Rico.

One of the reasons this project was kickstarted was Hurricane Maria, which left a disastrous impact on Puerto Rico during the 2017 hurricane season. The storm was a brutal wake up call that made many locals, including the local government, realize their vulnerability to climatic disasters: Puerto Rico is almost completely dependent on imports to meet its food (and pretty much any other) needs.

As a result, there has been an increasing interest in improving the island’s self-reliance. This also applies to the production of local textiles and garments: farmers, fashion students and teachers, local clothing designers and artists throughout Puerto Rico, all agree that there is tremendous potential to reintroduce cotton and other natural fibers to create a local market for an industry that extends from farm to finished garments.

The first step in this process is undertaking a feasibility study modeled on the SFA’s cotton study I did for the SFA in Haiti. It is hoped this study will lead, as it did in Haiti, to field trials this summer of different varieties of cotton that can, in turn, translate to cultivation by smallholder farmers.

Project Summary

Partners Smallholder Farmers Alliance, Impact FarmingTimberland, Visit Rico, Textile Exchange, Retazo.co
Date Started June 2018
Status Running (early stages)
Keywords Sustainable Cotton, Natural Fibers, Circular Economy, Social Enterprise
Resources Puerto Rico Cotton Study (ENG)PR Estudio Algodón (ESP)


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Where We’re At

This project is still in its early development stages. We’re currently conducting an exploratory study to look into the possible scenarios for the reintroduction of (organic) cotton (and potential other natural fibers) to Puerto Rico. Historically the major cotton growing regions in Puerto Rico were in the South and North-West of the island.

Puerto Rico Natural Fiber Project


Location of the SFA’s first cotton field trials in Haiti.


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