The C&A Foundation, a private foundation affiliated with the global clothing retailer C&A, and WWF India have launched a partnership to promote the cultivation of organic cotton in the Satpuda-Pench corridor of Central India, adjacent to the ecologically important Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, according to a blog in the C&A Foundation’s website.
Through their unique programme, the organisations will combine organic agriculture with environmental conservation to create a win-win situation for both farmers and nature. The multi-year project will help 6000 farmers to obtain organic certification by the end of 2018.
“Our vision for this partnership is to maintain the ecology of the Satpuda-Pench corridor while enhancing the livelihoods of cotton farmers, who play such a critical role in the apparel industry value chain,” said Anita Chester, head of sustainable raw materials for C&A Foundation. “By helping farmers go organic, we can minimise the degradation of soil and water quality that adversely affects wildlife habitats while also reducing costs and increasing yields for local cotton farmers.”
Central India is home to of India’s largest intact forest tracts and iconic and endangered species including tigers, barasingha and gaur. It is also home to several tribal communities with diverse traditional livelihoods. In recent years, however, cotton production has become a primary source of income for nearly 1.6 million farmers in the area. Given the potential impacts of unsustainable cotton farming practices on the landscape and biodiversity of this ecologically important area, approaches that minimize negative impacts while ensuring farmer livelihoods are critical
According to the blog, farmer training, though in the prototype phase, has already commenced this season in the Satpuda-Pench corridor. Farmers will learn how to build the fertility of soil to increase yields, and make natural plant pesticides and compost. Farmers who complete the programme will also be able to obtain organic certification, giving them better access to international organic cotton markets.
The aim is to reduce financial burden on farmers, improving farmer livelihoods and creating incentives for farmers to practice sustainable agriculture and minimize the sale of land to other industries such as mining and commercial development.
“Sustainable agriculture plays an important role in conservation. It is an important piece of the puzzle,” said Dr. Sejal Worah, Programme Director, WWF India. “When farmers manage their land sustainably, they can help preserve critical habitats by improving soil and water quality. This, in turn, enhances their agricultural productivity in the long term. In this case, promoting organic cotton in areas where agriculture and biodiversity interact could create a win-win scenario for farmers and wildlife.”
C&A Foundation and WWF are currently exploring the rollout of additional farmer training programs in areas with both high biodiversity or threatened species and high cotton production, the blog said.