By Janice Kleinschmidt
Conference, symposium, summit, convention, festival, convergence, expo, workshop or world congress—whatever they called it, events on six continents celebrated the International Year of Natural Fibres (IYNF) in 2009. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched the year to support the world’s many poor farmers. “If we can increase awareness of these fibers, if we can perhaps help to increase consumer demand, if we can help stimulate governments to put more resources into some of the research and development that’s necessary, I think we can make a significant difference to these farmers,” said Brian Moir, FAO economist.
Events took place in typically media-concentrated arenas, such as the United Kingdom, United States, France, Italy, Canada and Japan, as well as in less-expected venues, including Bangladesh, Poland, New Zealand, Iran and Mozambique. They included museum exhibitions and even fashion shows—notably in Paris and Rome (The Costume Museum of Canada called its show “Nature Is the New Black.”)
When the IYNF committee met this past January in Frankfurt, Germany, an alliance of natural fiber organizations established the Discover Natural Fibers Initiative to continue the mission of raising awareness about natural fibers. Members include Cotton Council International, International Wool Textile Organization, International Textile Manufacturers Federation and other groups.
Meanwhile, the FAO is maintaining the IYNF website (www.naturalfibres2009.org) and organizing more media events. The FAO also formed the Intergovernmental Group on Jute and Hard Fibres (especially focusing on sisal, coir and abaca), in part to identify new markets.