Nagpur: Over 150 delegates from India and other parts of the world, representing government, the apparel industry, academia, research institutions, civil society and farmer groups, are in Nagpur today at the 2nd edition of Cotton Trailblazers. Their main goal is to build a roadmap for the organic cotton sector in India, establishing Maharashtra as a key hub for organic cotton. The convening, co-hosted by C&A Foundation in collaboration with Solidaridad Asia and Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), celebrated India’s leadership in global organic cotton production and turned the spotlight on organic cotton farmers.
Cotton Trailblazers brings together key players to deliberate on the challenges facing the organic cotton sector and to look for solutions through collaborative efforts that create value for all – from farmers to consumers.
Speaking on the occasion, Ms Anita Chester, Head of Sustainable Raw Materials, C&A Foundation, said “ India continues to dominate the organic cotton production across the globe, and it has been estimated that India’s total organic fibre production will continue to grow over the next few years. This highlights the enormous potential India has in demonstrating organic transformation and effectively work together towards creating a sustainable fashion industry.”
The stakeholders unanimously agreed that organic cotton is positioned to ‘take off’ in Maharashtra. The state was a pioneer in the organic transformation; yet today, only 11 percent of India’s total organic cotton supply comes from Maharashtra. A revival in the state can benefit the farmers by reducing cultivation costs in the input phase and lead to a decrease the overall debt, as well as stimulate the soil’s natural balance.
“I have observed that the traditional practices that had been very common in the past, stopped with the introduction of BT cotton. This led to a digression to chemical farming. With the organic cotton initiative in our state, practices such as making organic compost, are emerging again and have proven to be very helpful for us as they are chemical-free and do not require any extra expenditure” says, Roopraj Wamanro Milmile, a farmer from Yavatmal.
C&A Foundation and Solidaridad Asia have already incubated various local solutions that have been a catalyst for the adoption of organic practices in the state, with an aim to reach 15,000 farmers. The organic cotton program was also complemented with additional efforts by Solidaridad Asia on addressing the water stress challenges in the region by promoting micro-irrigation and rainwater management solutions covering 30,000 farmers. Dr. Shatadru Chattopadhyay, Managing Director, Solidaridad Asia said, “We, along with our partners are creating a prosperous cotton sector by using sustainable production methods that have contributed to improved water use efficiency, worker health and safety and much-reduced water pollution levels.”
After setting the context for the day’s discussions on making a business case for organic cotton, the speakers deliberated on how local handloom enterprises can engage directly with farmers of their own state and pay them a premium price for cotton in-transition towards organic. The dialogue focused on farmers and big brands, and the business models that have the potential to scale up, along with the challenges and benefits of such business alliances. Participants shed light on policy enablers that would help strengthen the organic cotton sector. A need for traceability in the organic supply chain and importance of sustainability in the fashion industry was emphasised.
“The transformation has already begun, civil society organisations are ready to act, and farmers have taken the first steps on the route back to organic farming. Massive untapped sustainable potential is still awaiting realisation, so let’s all get started and embrace the revival of organic cotton in Maharashtra,” added Ms Chester.
About C&A Foundation:
C&A Foundation is a corporate foundation working to transform the fashion industry to make fashion a force for good and is closely linked to the global retailer C&A. In 2016, the foundation invested heavily in India where programmes focus on improving farmer livelihood through organic cotton farming, building a resilient supply chain of organic cotton, and eradicating forced and child labour in the fashion supply chain. C&A Foundation supports over 33,000 smallholder cotton farmers in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat to convert to organic cotton farming. www.candafoundation.org.
About Solidaridad Asia
Solidaridad Asia is part of the Solidaridad Network, a global civil society organization that has been providing efficient,
scalable and economically effective and innovative sustainability solutions in agriculture and mining sectors in collaboration with governments, businesses and community. Solidaridad Asia, headquartered in Hong Kong and operating from India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Israel, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka has more than 320 sustainability experts operating within Asia and has the ability to organize and collaborate closely with businesses, investors, governments, producers, producer organizations, service providers, labour unions and other CSOs.
About Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA)
Since its establishment by founding partners C&A Foundation, H&M, Kering, EILEEN FISHER, Textile Exchange and C&A, OCA has played a critical role in the organic cotton sector as the only multi-stakeholder organisation focused on creating a prosperous organic cotton sector from farmer to consumer. As an accelerator, OCA promotes best practices and transparency through the entire supply chain, to enhance the viability of organic cotton now and in the future. OCA unites and represents a large share of the industry voice and interest in the organic cotton sector via its affiliates, whilst OCA’s programme of interventions in India focuses on improving the business case for organic cotton farmers and the integrity of organic cotton from source to product. www.organiccottonaccelerator.org