In this series #MeetTheMaker, our Co-Founder, Rebecca, interviews some of our cotton farmers to find out about their involvement in the cotton industry. We're passionate about creating high quality products and this cannot be done without understanding the provenance of our materials and the producers who make them.
I've just travelled for two days on four planes and several hours by car to arrive in the very rural village of Bhimdanga, India. In fact, the last leg of the trip involved a rickety rowing boat across a huge river and a piggyback by motorcycle to get us here. Bhimdanga is beautiful, like something out of a movie- cotton fields as far as the eye can see, thatched cottages with mud walls, beautifully-dressed women in brightly coloured saris and animals roaming around everywhere.
All of the people living here rely on cotton for survival and several years ago, the entire village switched to organic farming with the help of the local cooperative with whom we work and to whom we contribute financial support. I want to learn more about the industry and why the entire village decided to give up pesticides and GM in pursuit of organic. So I meet Guala Goud, whose family have been cotton farmers in this area for generations.
Hi Guala, nice to meet you. Can you tell me a little about yourself please?
My name is Guala Goud. My village is Bhimdanga. I was born in this village and my forefathers have been living in this village for generations. I cultivate Cotton, Paddy, Tomato and Brinjal on my land. Apart from this, I work as a daily wage labourer to finance my family. I work in agriculture fields and I also go to nearby towns in search of labour work.
Do you have any children?
I have one son and two grandsons, and one granddaughter. One child is in intermediate, the other 2 are in matriculation and 4th class.
Can you tell me about your farming? What processes do you carry out?
Firstly, we plough the land and clean the field. Then we make heaps of cow dung in different parts of the land. When the rain arrives, we sow the seeds and after 20 to 25 days of sowing, we do weeding. Then we apply the cow dung compost and continue with more weeding.
What was your experience like with non-organic farming before you were supported in changing to organic?
Previously, we applied chemical fertilisers and pesticides and observed that the soil was becoming very hard. With the help of the cooperative, we started organic farming and soil fertility improved, though the production is less.
How did chemical fertilisers affect your farming abilities?
Due to the application of fertiliser, the soil was becoming harder and harder every day. They also caused various diseases and illnesses in our community. We experienced headaches, fevers, skin problems etc.
What were some of the obstacles you had to face in the past?
Previously we were facing enormous difficulties. Now, somebody works for a day then it lasts for another 2 days. With non-organic and non-Fairtrade production, it was very difficult to meet the needs of my family. Now the situation has changed due to the enhancement of our productivity. Children are studying in schools and after the completion of their studies, they will decide their future.
What has been the best part of the introduction of organic farming for you?
The cooperative has taught us the importance of also farming our own food, as previously we just grew cotton as a cash crop. Now we grow healthy and nutritious food and we have food security.
Life was so different before and our farming systems were not profitable or sustainable. It was very difficult to get a wage. Now we are getting good money and whenever we need any other support, every facility is available from the cooperative. Now we are living happily.
What products are you now able to grow by practicing organic farming?
We not only grow cotton but also redgram (piegon pea), maize and many more things by doing organic farming.
Do you get just Fairtrade prices or do you get a Fairtrade premium price as well?
Yes, we also receive a Fairtrade premium, which helps us to improve our working conditions.
Since you are now working with the cooperative, you supply directly to the buyers, has this been beneficial for you?
In the past we were not getting the right price for cotton, many of us were cheated by the middle men and traders. Now we get the right and fair price for our product, and payments are done in time through the bank.
Overall, how do you feel about this new program that has been introduced to you?
I am happy, very happy with the people of your country. I have been provided with a solar pump by the cooperative for irrigation, but in fact it does not lift enough water for the agriculture still.
Thank you very much for you time.