Around the world, there are thought to be over 100 million households engaged in the growth and production of cotton and over 300 million people employed at any point along the production line. It’s the world’s oldest commercial crop and for many developing countries it is a large part of their GDP.
However, many of its growers live in poverty and are barely able to make a wage just to survive on. As well as that, many farmers in developing countries are discovering an increasing number of challenges to growing cotton, including climate change, poor prices for seed cotton and competition from subsidised farmers in developed countries like the US.
Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company
The Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company Ltd (COAPCL) is a branch of the Chetna Organic and Fair Trade Cotton Intervention Program (OCIP). Set up in 2004, OCIP was designed as an thicla supply chain intiative based on sustainable agricutlure principles such as organic and Fairtrade and non-pesticide management and works in the central Indian states of Maharashta, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Suicides of Indian farmers is a major problem. The difficulties in growing crops because of climate change and the expenses involved make things difficult, and because of the way land has been divided up through families, a single farm is often too small to produce enough money to survive on. Suicide is seen as a way out.
Chetna Organic is a huge support network for over 15,000 Indian cotton farmers, most of which own small areas of land less than two hectares. Those 15,000 farmers are organised into 979 self help groups that are all part of one of thirteen co-operatives across the three states.
The farmers helped by Chetna Organic produce around 6,300 tonnes of organic cotton and Fairtrade seed cotton a year which represents around 34% of the total cotton grown in India. Unlike large parts of the country when it comes to agriculture, there is no synthetic pesticides or fertiliers, GMOs or child labour used in cotton production.
The Role of Fairtrade
Fairtrade works with Chetna Organic and OCIP to ensure that farmers receive a fair minimum price for cotton (INR34.45/kg) or the market price when cotton is worth more. They also receive INR3.00/Kg to invest into production and into farming communities.
Traditionally, farmers stored cotton in their homes once it had been picked, which can have a number of health impacts as well as it being a major fire hazard. Fairtrade now buy the cotton from farmers much quicker and ensure that it is safely stored in warehouses and storage facilities and then sold on to customers when cotton is sold at a better price. Fairtrade has also aided the use of technology on Indian farms and created a more sustainable process that will have greater resilience to the impacts of climate change affecting the Indian sub-Continent.