1. SOWING THE SEEDS
The farmers sow the organic cotton seeds and then manage the soil, water, pests and weeds without the use of pesticides.
The organic cotton used for PICO’s pants is sourced from two farmer-run cooperatives in India. We spent a few days meeting some of the farmers who are part of one of these co-operatives - Pratima Organic Growers’ Group, based in the state of Orissa. While we were there we experienced what it is like to be in the hottest place in the world with temperatures reaching highs of 49.8*C. The locals thought we were crazy to have travelled there at that time of year (and in retrospect perhaps we were). However, it helped us to appreciate what it is to farm in such extreme weather conditions.
The Growers’ Group runs regular training workshops in advanced organic farming methods, and these have helped farmers to increase yields and provided food stability in their communities. Encouraging crop rotation, border cropping, various composting techniques and a variety of natural methods of pest control offers an alternative to the use of conventional chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Across India, the costs and implications of using these chemicals, alongside GM seeds, has caused many small-scale farmers to fall into unimaginable debt and has led to the suicides of hundreds of thousands of farmers since 1995.
Working as a cooperative with a fair trade mark ensures that the farmers get a fair and stable price for their cotton crop. In addition, the Fairtrade fund supports various projects within local communities, such as creating safe drinking water sources, funding further education and organising women’s self-help groups.
When we talked to the people involved, it was really clear that these organic cooperatives are making a huge difference to the their lives and the lives of their families and communities. Farmers, and especially the women involved, have been inspired with a new sense of independence and empowerment.
One of our favourite moments was when some of the ladies showed us the Singer sewing machine they had saved up for through the group’s savings account. They proudly unveiled the wonderful things they had made whilst learning to sew on it, and were full of excitement for the potential of what else they could make!
DEFINITIONS & DETAILS
or-gan-ic /ɔːˈɡanɪk/ adjective "Not using artificial chemicals in the growing of plants and animals for food and other product"
cot-ton /ˈkɒt(ə)n/ noun "A soft white fibrous substance, which surrounds the seeds of the cotton plant and is made into textile fibre and thread for sewing"
WHERE WE VISITED: Pratima Organics - Titilagarh, Orissa.