A model for working with government
To change the system, every player within that system needs to be involved. So, instead of trying to tackle organic cotton farming across India, we decided to focus first on just one region and work holistically to engage with all stakeholders of the organic cotton sector in that area.
We focused on the state of Madhya Pradesh, a big producer of organic cotton with a government keen to champion it and establish a model that works. As well as working with farmers directly, we collaborated with the government and encouraged them to create the policies and conditions that will enable cotton farmers to convert to organic practices.
As we gain experience in Madhya Pradesh, we will apply what we have learnt to other states and countries we work in, adapting to their particular situations and cultures.
What we’ve learnt:
Local partners have the biggest stake in the success of their own communities as they hold their trust. Local partners should therefore own and lead the dialogue with their own governments. The OFCS MP is a success because it was led by local partners themselves.
How we did it
Select an area with the right conditions for success
Over 40% of the total agricultural land under organic cultivation in India is in Madhya Pradesh. The state also produces a quarter of the world’s organic cotton. The entire organic cotton supply chain – ginning, spinning units, garment manufacturing – is located in Madhya Pradesh. This makes it much easier to work with all actors and also allows for better traceability of the cotton itself.
Bring the key
In March 2014, we held the first ever meeting of over 170 organic cotton stakeholders in Madhya Pradesh. That meeting aligned ambitions and led to the creation of Organic Fairtrade Cotton Secretariat (OFCS), which included Textile Exchange, Pratibha Syntex and Fairtrade. This later became more focused as a network of organizations in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Through their leadership organizations such as Action for Social Advancement are helping the network to shape the priorities for the sector.
Focus on systemic barriers
Together with the government, the OFCS (MP) discussed the systemic barriers and identified the areas the government was best placed to tackle. These included the lack of access to good quality non-GMO seed, limited research on best practices in organic cotton cultivation and the lack of proper segregation for organic farmers, which leads to chemical or GMO contamination.
After two years, the government announced its first steps:
Start non-GMO seed research
at state universities
Right now, it’s too difficult for farmers to access good quality non-GMO seed. To grow this small sector, we need to address this urgent issue at scale. The government will establish a centre of excellence for organic cotton research to establish the best ways to do so.
Set up 100 organic clusters
Instead of focusing on cotton, these clusters include a mix of crops, which helps farmers to spread their risk and build resilience. The government has also agreed to provide subsidies for organic farmers.
Launch the Organic Agriculture Curriculum
This certificate course will help rural youth to learn about organic agriculture so that they can be the champions of the organic movement.