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Why an International Year of Natural Fibres?

The United Nations has declared 2009 the International Year of Natural Fibres “to shine new light on the wonders of natural fibres and highlight their importance in alleviating poverty”.

For thousands of years, people have used fibres from plants and animals to make cloth, string and paper, and to strengthen building materials. Roughly 30 million tonnes of natural fibres are produced annually worldwide.

In many developing countries, proceeds from the sale and export of natural fibres contribute significantly to the income and the food security of poor farmers and those working in fibre processing and marketing.

Since the 1960s, however, the use of synthetic fibres has increased, and natural fibres have lost a lot of their market share. Producers and processors of natural fibres face the challenge of developing and maintaining markets in which they can compete effectively with synthetics.

The International Year of Natural Fibres will contribute to the Millennium Development Goals: in attacking poverty and hunger (No. 1), in contributing to environmental sustainability (No. 7), and in promoting the formation of an international partnership (No. 8).

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