Thursday, January 15, 2009

International Year of Natural Fibres

General Announcement

International Year of Natural Fibres

Cotton, wool, silk, jute, flax, sisal...

Natural fibre industries employ millions of people and contribute to a greener planet

The International Year of Natural Fibres will be officially launched on 22 January 2009, at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.


  • raise awareness and stimulate demand for natural fibres;
  • promote the efficiency and sustainability of the natural fibres
  • encourage appropriate policy responses from governments to the problems
    faced by natural fibre industries;
  • foster an effective and enduring international partnership among the
    various natural fibres industries.

What are Natural Fibres?

Natural fibres may be defined as “those renewable fibres from plants or animals which can be easily transformed into a yarn for textiles”. Animal fibres are largely those which cover mammals such as sheep, goats and rabbits, but include also the cocoon of the silk-worm. Vegetable fibres are derived from the stem, leaf or seed of various plants. Close to 30 million tonnes of natural fibres are produced annually in the world, of which cotton is dominant with 20
million tonnes, wool and jute each around 2 to 3 million tonnes followed by a number of others.

What are Natural Fibres used for?

Natural fibres form an important component of clothing, upholstery and other textiles for consumers, and many of them also have industrial uses in packaging, papermaking and in composite materials with many uses, including automobiles.

Why are Natural Fibres important?

Apart from their importance to the consumer and in their various industrial uses, natural fibres are an important source of income for the farmers who produce them. In some cases they are produced on large farms in developed countries, but in many developing and least developed countries proceeds from the sale and export of natural fibres contribute significantly to the income and food security of poor farmers and workers in fibre industries. For some developing countries natural fibres are of major economic importance, for example, cotton in some west African countries, jute in Bangladesh and sisal in Tanzania. In other cases these fibres are of less significance at the national level but are of major local importance, as in the case of jute in West Bengal (India) and sisal in north-east Brazil.

Why an International Year of Natural Fibres?

Since the 1960s, the use of synthetic fibres has increased, and natural fibres have lost a lot of their market share. The main objective of the International Year of Natural Fibres is to raise the profile of these fibres, to emphasise their value to consumers while helping to sustain the incomes of the farmers. Promoting measures to improve the efficiency and sustainability of
production is also an important aspect of the Year.

Who decided that 2009 would be the International Year of Natural

The idea came from a meeting of fibre producing and consuming countries in FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. At the request of FAO, the actual declaration was made by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20 December 2006.

Who will organise the International Year?

There is a coordinating unit in FAO, but a great many other organisations and people will be involved. An International Steering Committee, with representatives from various fibre organisations, consumer bodies, and funding agencies, will meet from time-to-time to guide the programme. Most of the activities will be organised by partner organisations, some at the international level, and many more within individual countries.

What will happen in 2009?

The programme of events is now filling out. One or more large international conferences will be held. There will be displays and fashion shows and many other events in many countries, run by a variety of different national organisations.

Where will the money come from?

FAO needs funding in order to coordinate activities and to provide support to partner organizations around the world. Without this support the potential benefits of the IYNF will not be realised.

E-mail Forum

An e-mail list has been established to allow us to keep you informed of
developments and for the exchange of views and information. To enroll in the email list, send an e-mail to:, leave the subject line blank, and put in the body of the message:subscribe IYNF-2009-L

Contact us to get involved:

International Year of Natural Fibres Coordinating Unit
Trade and Markets Division
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome, Italy
Fax: +39 06 57054495