Flower garlands and a colourful crowd of young and old welcome us to Gunuur – a little cotton farmers village in south India. This is our annual India visit to meet our suppliers and ensure that our products are being made under the highest ethical and sustainable standards.
Our visit was timed with cotton harvest season to learn more about cotton farming, farmers lives and to see for ourselves the ground realities. We were there with Chetna Organic – a non-profit organization which builds ethical supply chains for organic cotton.
Cotton is a renewable, biodegradable natural wonder. But its cultivation requires a lot from our environment. Pesticides and fertilizers not only harm the ecosystem – they cost human lives. Converting from conventional to organic is not simple either.
It takes 3 years for soil to become pesticide free, so the first 3 years of harvest cannot be sold as organic cotton, meaning more work and less income. 3 years is a long time in the life of a small farmer – it could mean no food on the table. Chetna Organic trains them to grow different cash crops they can sell during the transition, helps with seeds, runs schools for children…making sure that farmers have a good life, and an incentive to convert to organic cotton.
The efforts have paid off. Even if it takes 3 years, it is a good idea because they get better health and a higher net income. Doing it together as a community helps as well. Today, the village has 96 families with a total of 287 members and is a part of a co-operative of 4000 farmers. All farms in this village are 100% organic, rainfed farms, and have been growing organic cotton for 10 years.
We are invited to lunch by the villagers and served Indian food spiced down for our sake. They don’t like it themselves because it wasn’t spicy. A lady says, “how can you survive without colours and taste. For us life is colours and taste”. We talk about our families, children…no matter where in the world we live, there are common human values that tie us all together.
It was a wonderful day filled with pride, good food and laughter. We came back with the utmost respect for the resources and skills required to make what we wear and will always be reminded of the people behind.
Thank you beautiful people – you touched our hearts.
Thank you for making our beautiful Aiayu cotton.