Sus­tain­able Ini­tia­tive

Lead farm­ers recog­nised for their ef­forts and com­mit­ment Govern­ment bod­ies re­spon­sive to change Brands voice concern and en­sure sup­port Recog­ni­tion of or­ganic cot­ton as an en­abler of change

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C&A Foun­da­tion’s Cot­ton Trail­blaz­ers event brings the stake­hold­ers of or­ganic cot­ton on to a com­mon plat­form

In­dia is of prime im­por­tance in global or­ganic cot­ton pro­duc­tion, with over 1,90,000 cer­ti­fied or­ganic cot­ton farm­ers in the coun­try ac­count­ing for 56% of world’s pro­duc­tion. And it was only be­fit­ting that Bhopal was the lo­ca­tion for the event as Mad­hya Pradesh (MP) ac­counts for 43% of the or­ganic cot­ton grown in In­dia and 24% of the to­tal world pro­duc­tion, gen­er­at­ing busi­ness worth around

US $ 4 bil­lion an­nu­ally. The very fact that the con­fer­ence was in­au­gu­rated by Gau­r­is­hankar Bisen, Min­is­ter, Farmer Wel­fare & Agri­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment, Govern­ment of Mad­hya Pradesh, high­lighted the im­por­tance of the event for the state and also the proac­tive­ness of the Govern­ment to find so­lu­tions that en­hance pro­duc­tion and make a suc­cess­ful busi­ness model out of or­ganic cot­ton. With play­ers like Prat­i­bha Syn­tex Ltd. in MP, the fo­cus on or­ganic farm­ing has steadily grown over the years, but the chal­lenges re­lat­ing to access to seeds, tech­ni­cal capacity and un­equitable shar­ing of value has con­tin­ued to plague the in­dus­try.

With a 360-de­gree ap­proach, C&A Foun­da­tion has taken up the chal­lenge to find so­lu­tions to th­ese chal­lenges with a proac­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach. Shar­ing the vi­sion of the Foun­da­tion and its im­por­tance and fo­cus on or­ganic cot­ton, de­spite it be­ing a neg­li­gi­ble por­tion of the fash­ion chain, Les­lie Johnston, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor, of the C&A Foun­da­tion said, “We feel that fash­ion has the abil­ity to trans­form lives…, so our mission is to make fash­ion a force for good. We want to make the in­dus­try ‘good’ not less bad…; the vi­sion is to make the in­dus­try re­gen­er­a­tive and restora­tive. In this pur­suit, we as a Foun­da­tion have the unique role and abil­ity to think big, in the long-term and take risks by mak­ing big bets on what is good for the fu­ture… We strongly feel that or­ganic cot­ton is some­thing we need to sup­port, so we are in the mid­dle of an ex­cit­ing rev­o­lu­tion for change, bet­ting big on or­ganic cot­ton.”

Tak­ing the dis­cus­sion for­ward, Anita Ch­ester, Head of Sus­tain­able Raw Ma­te­ri­als, C&A Foun­da­tion, gave the au­di­ence a bird’s eye view of the chal­lenges they are fac­ing and the gains the Foun­da­tion can be proud of: “Our in­ter­ven­tions have re­sulted in a 21% in­come in­crease for farm­ers in MP, de­spite a de­crease in yields,” she shared. Anita fur­ther added that the Foun­da­tion has col­lab­o­rated with the Govern­ment to foster a pol­icy and reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment for the ben­e­fit of the or­ganic cot­ton farm­ers, as also to de­velop a strong net­work of lo­cal stake­hold­ers in MP to ac­cel­er­ate the change.

Among the most re­cent or­gan­i­sa­tions cre­ated to sup­port the or­ganic cot­ton in­dus­try – The Or­ganic Cot­ton Ac­cel­er­a­tor (OCA) fo­cuses on cre­at­ing a pros­per­ous or­ganic cot­ton sec­tor that ben­e­fits every­one – from farmer to con­sumer. “Our in­vest­ments tackle the chal­lenges in the sec­tor and re­alise the ben­e­fits that or­ganic cot­ton can bring for peo­ple, planet and long-term pros­per­ity,” said Crispin Ar­gento, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor, OCA. Rep­re­sent­ing 70% of global or­ganic cot­ton sourc­ing by vol­ume, OCA was es­tab­lished in 2016, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with brands that be­lieve in the or­ganic cot­ton story. Work­ing along the sup­ply chain, OCA in­vests in farm­ers, seed, and in­tegrity so­lu­tions through tar­geted in­ter­ven­tions and pro­grammes.

Dur­ing the ses­sion – ‘Build­ing a Re­silient Or­ganic Cot­ton Sec­tor: Im­prov­ing Farmer Liveli­hood’ – all speak­ers in­clud­ing the lead farm­ers, Ali­son Ward, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive

Of­fi­cer (CEO) of Cot­tonCon­nect and La Rhea Pep­per, Man­ag­ing Direc­tor (MD) of Tex­tile Ex­change, shared their ex­pe­ri­ence and col­lec­tively agreed that al­though the cost of do­ing or­ganic farm­ing is around 12% less than chem­i­cal farm­ing, the ef­fort and pa­tience re­quired to nur­ture the farm­ers is much higher. Coun­ter­ing the lower in­put cost, the pro­duc­tiv­ity in the ini­tial stages is much lower than conventional cot­ton, which is again a chal­lenge for the farm­ers. It was un­der­scored over and over again that the vi­a­bil­ity and fu­ture of the in­dus­try is only pos­si­ble if or­ganic cot­ton is treated as ‘ex­clu­sive’ and price points are higher than conventional cot­ton.

In­dus­try voices…

As man­u­fac­turer of or­ganic yarn and fab­rics, Ro­hit Doshi, Direc­tor of Mahima Fi­bres Pvt. Ltd. shared that many ‘costs’ were in­volved in the process and though they want to pay the farm­ers well, the price at which the in­dus­try is will­ing to buy, puts pres­sure on them all the time. Agree­ing with Ro­hit, Shreyaskar Chaud­hary, MD & CEO of Prat­i­bha Syn­tex Ltd. urged the brands to look at or­ganic cot­ton prod­ucts in a fresh light that would make it more vi­able for com­pa­nies to man­u­fac­ture gar­ments us­ing or­ganic cot­ton. “Or­ganic cot­ton is good for the farm­ers and for the en­vi­ron­ment, every­one agrees on that. But it is im­por­tant to bring all stake­hold­ers on to the ta­ble to recog­nise the gaps and work to­gether to find so­lu­tions that will en­hance this seg­ment.

That in­cludes ed­u­cat­ing the end cus­tomer on what ac­tu­ally buy­ing an or­ganic prod­uct means – from im­prov­ing the liveli­hood of small farm­ers to a health­ier world for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” im­plored Shreyaskar.

Brand com­mit­ments & con­cerns…

The big­gest concern for brands work­ing with or­ganic cot­ton is ‘vis­i­bil­ity’ or ‘trace­abil­ity’ to en­sure that what they are get­ting is ac­tu­ally or­ganic cot­ton. “We need to en­sure that we are driv­ing real change. Vis­i­bil­ity is also very im­por­tant for the fair dis­tri­bu­tion of prof­itabil­ity through­out the chain,” averred

Merel Kreb­bers, Ma­te­rial In­tegrity Spe­cial­ist of H&M. Though H&M is among the big­gest brands work­ing with or­ganic cot­ton, its con­cerns are shared by all brands. For Su­perdry, which has picked up its first or­der of or­ganic cot­ton from MP last December, the big­gest fac­tor that has driven the brand to or­ganic cot­ton is the power to change lives. “We have started small and it is im­por­tant to en­sure that we are ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit­ing the or­ganic cot­ton farmer, and that is pos­si­ble only if there is vis­i­bil­ity through the sup­ply chain,” said Carly Thomas, Eth­i­cal Trad­ing Man­ager of Su­perdry. The brand is looking to scale up in or­ganic cot­ton and has joined OCA in its ef­fort to make a suc­cess­ful busi­ness model and be the en­ablers of change. En­sur­ing in­tegrity in­volves cost and who pays that cost is very crit­i­cal to the move­ment. In fact, the high cost of cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and trace­abil­ity pro­grammes was also a mat­ter of concern. Sab­rina Müller, Se­nior Sus­tain­abil­ity Man­ager (Prod­uct and Brand) of Tchibo was very up­front when she said that the im­pact is al­ways at the core when it comes to sus­tain­abil­ity. “If, after solv­ing the in­tegrity and ma­te­rial as well as fi­nan­cial trans­parency in the sec­tor, we see that it is still not suf­fi­cient to sup­port the lives of farm­ers and the cul­ti­va­tion of or­ganic cot­ton, we will have to ad­dress the mech­a­nisms and price struc­ture of it all.”

What was very ob­vi­ous from the dis­cus­sions that took place was that the is­sues sur­round­ing vis­i­bil­ity can only be ad­dressed with a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach. Ev­ery stake­holder has a role to play, and com­mit­ment from each is im­por­tant to achieve the com­mon goal of giv­ing a bet­ter life and liveli­hood op­por­tu­ni­ties to the farm­ers who em­bark on the or­ganic jour­ney.

Govern­ment takes on the chal­lenges…

The hon­esty with which the day-long ses­sion pro­ceeded was in­deed an in­di­ca­tion of the se­ri­ous­ness of the

stake­hold­ers to turn the in­dus­try around. Even the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the State Govern­ment were straight for­ward in their ap­proach and did not avoid even the most dif­fi­cult of ques­tions from the au­di­ence and panel. Shar­ing a pro­posal to im­prove trace­abil­ity in this com­plex or­ganic chain, Dr. Tarun Ba­jaj, Gen­eral Man­ager of Agri­cul­ture & Pro­cessed Food Prod­ucts

Ex­port De­vel­op­ment Author­ity, Min­istry of Com­merce & In­dus­try, Govern­ment of In­dia em­pha­sised that there is a need to build an end-to-end in­tegrity and trace­abil­ity tool from farm to fin­ished prod­uct un­der the con­trol of the Govern­ment. “It is im­por­tant to have a chain of cus­tody for trace­abil­ity,” said

Dr. Ba­jaj. His rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded – bring­ing or­ganic tex­tile pro­cess­ing un­der Na­tional Pro­gramme for Or­ganic Pro­duc­tion (not as a sep­a­rate pro­gramme); pro­cess­ing stan­dards to be de­fined in con­sul­ta­tion with in­dus­try; trace­abil­ity to be mon­i­tored through ver­i­fi­ca­tion of all stages; move­ment of goods with trans­ac­tion cer­tifi­cate; and fa­cil­i­tat­ing the use of an ‘In­dia Or­ganic’ logo as a sym­bol of trust on fi­nal pro­duce.

It was also em­pha­sised that though the Govern­ment was more than ready to sup­port the cause, the in­dus­try and var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions also need to be trans­par­ent for the change to hap­pen. “We need data to help the farm­ers… How can we give funds or even make poli­cies with­out proper and re­li­able data?” rea­soned Mo­han Lal, Direc­tor of Farmer Wel­fare & Agri­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment, Govern­ment of MP. The com­mit­ment of the depart­ment was aptly demon­strated by the views shared by Dr. Ra­jesh Ra­jora, Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, Farmer Wel­fare & Agri­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment, Govern­ment of MP. “MP is a big player in or­ganic cul­ti­va­tion and with the ef­forts of all the or­gan­i­sa­tions and stake­hold­ers, I feel that we would be able to make a change,” he said.

Dr. Ra­jora broke down the or­ganic chal­lenge into four ar­eas – firstly

R&D; sec­ond the Ex­ten­sion; third Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion; and lastly, Mar­ket­ing. Each of them is in­ter­twined and in­ter­de­pen­dent and very com­plex in­di­vid­u­ally, though they may sound very sim­plis­tic, he em­pha­sised. “We

In­cen­tives to the farm­ers dur­ing the conversion pe­riod is im­por­tant, as con­vert­ing a conventional land to or­ganic land takes three to four years and dur­ing that pe­riod, what­ever is pro­duced has to be in­cen­tivised, oth­er­wise farm­ers get de­mo­ti­vated.

have to find out the ways through which or­ganic farm­ing be­comes lu­cra­tive for the farmer through in­ter crop­ping, through crop ro­ta­tion, through proper use of agri­cul­ture land. It is very im­por­tant that cot­ton cul­ti­va­tion be­comes im­por­tant in th­ese ar­eas,” he averred.

Com­mit­ting sup­port from the Mandi Board, Govern­ment of MP, Faiz Ahmed Kid­wai, MD of the board urged the in­dus­try to scale up so that they could of­fer var­i­ous mar­ket­ing tools for a ro­bust buy­ing and sell­ing of or­ganic cot­ton. He also showed re­spon­sive­ness in work­ing with the in­dus­try for testing so­lu­tions, and pro­vid­ing var­i­ous sub­si­dies and in­cen­tives to en­cour­age the farm­ers, in case the vol­umes jus­ti­fied the ef­fort.

Take away from the event…

It was unan­i­mously agreed upon that there is big scope in the in­dus­try and by 2020, or­ganic cot­ton is ex­pected to be a 20-lakh hectares, busi­ness from the cur­rent 7 lakh hectares in terms of area of farm­ing. How­ever, in­ad­e­quate sup­ply of good qual­ity non-GMO seeds along with com­plex cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­ce­dures and lack of trace­abil­ity through­out the sup­ply chain are ma­jor is­sues. Mar­ket link­age for small ven­dors is almost non-ex­is­tent, which is a ma­jor concern as most of the or­ganic cot­ton farm­ers are small­holder farm­ers with a lack of busi­ness case that they can lever­age on.

Im­pact­ing the knowl­edge of or­ganic farm­ers in cul­ti­va­tion of cot­ton and scal­ing skills and capacity of farm­ers, is a potential so­lu­tion to the var­i­ous is­sues sur­round­ing the in­dus­try, un­der­lined Ashis Mon­dal, Direc­tor and Man­ag­ing Trustee of Ac­tion for So­cial Ad­vance­ment. It was ac­knowl­edged that though the farm­ers are en­tre­pre­neur­ial and they know how to do or­ganic farm­ing, but there are tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments and skills they need to learn. In­cen­tives to the farm­ers dur­ing the conversion pe­riod is im­por­tant, as con­vert­ing a conventional land to or­ganic land takes three to four years and dur­ing that pe­riod what­ever is pro­duced has to be in­cen­tivised, oth­er­wise farm­ers get de­mo­ti­vated. He fur­ther added that in­vest­ment on build­ing farm­ers’ or­gan­i­sa­tion or co­op­er­a­tives with or­ganic cot­ton pro­duc­ers shall leave a last­ing im­pact in not only en­sur­ing sus­tain­able sourc­ing, but will also es­tab­lish their or­gan­i­sa­tions firmly in the sup­ply chain of or­ganic cot­ton. It was also stressed by Apoorva

Oza, CEO of the Aga Khan Ru­ral Sup­port Pro­gramme (In­dia) that pro­vid­ing access to tech­nol­ogy, which could ver­ify or­ganic cot­ton at the ini­tial stage, would rev­o­lu­tionise the in­dus­try, sim­i­lar to what Amul did for the dairy in­dus­try. It was also pointed out that there is a need for greater col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the in­dus­try and Govern­ment and small and mar­ginal farm­ers and their col­lec­tives.”

And last but not the least, it was ac­knowl­edged that greater aware­ness for or­ganic cot­ton and its ad­van­tages over conventional cot­ton need to be built for long-term sus­tain­able growth of the seg­ment. Ev­ery par­tic­i­pant at the event, in­clud­ing the farm­ers were happy with the find­ings and are al­ready looking for­ward to­wards a sus­tain­able and col­lab­o­ra­tive game plan.

Mar­ket link­age for small ven­dors is almost non-ex­is­tent, which is a ma­jor concern as most of the or­ganic cot­ton farm­ers are small­holder farm­ers with a lack of a

busi­ness case that they can lever­age on.

In­au­gu­ral ses­sion (L to R): Dr. Ra­jesh Ra­jora , Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, Farmer Wel­fare & Agri­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment, Govern­ment of MP; Les­lie Johnston, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor, C&A Foun­da­tion; Gau­r­is­hankar Bisen, Min­is­ter, Farmer Wel­fare & Agri­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment, Govern­ment of MP; PC Meena, IAS, Min­istry of State for Com­merce & In­dus­try and Shreyaskar Chaud­hary, MD & CEO of Prat­i­bha Syn­tex Ltd.

Farm­ers first: Farm­ers at­ten­tively lis­ten­ing to the dis­cus­sion on the dais

Ses­sion on Col­lab­o­ra­tive In­dus­try Ap­proach (L to R): Anita Ch­ester, Head of Sus­tain­able Raw Ma­te­ri­als, C&A Foun­da­tion; Crispin Ar­gento, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor, OCA; Sab­rina Müller, Se­nior Sus­tain­abil­ity Man­ager (Prod­uct and Brand); Merel Kreb­bers, Ma­te­rial In­tegrity Spe­cial­ist of H&M; Ga­gan Kapoor, Global Cot­ton Sup­ply Chain Re­spon­si­ble, H&M; Faiz Ahmed Kid­wai, MD, Mandi Board, GoMP; Carly Thomas, Eth­i­cal Trad­ing Man­ager of Su­perdry, Tchibo; and Ro­hit Doshi, Direc­tor of Mahima Fi­bres Pvt. Ltd.

Lis­ten­ing to farm­ers: An in­tense ses­sion on ‘Build­ing a Re­silient Or­ganic Cot­ton Sec­tor: Im­prov­ing Farmer Liveli­hood’ in progress where farm­ers, ac­tivist is and Govern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives de­bated on the same plat­form for a com­mon agenda of giv­ing a bet­ter life and liveli­hood op­por­tu­ni­ties to the farm­ers who em­bark on the or­ganic jour­ney

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