In drought-prone Gujarat, the conventional wisdom is that more water means more crops. And to grow more crops, one has to give up the age-old methods and learn new techniques, keep knowledge of the same and adopt new methods of farming. This is what Cotton Connect has been providing to famers of village Ranmalpur in Gujarat. It is financed by Irish clothing retailer, Primark that operates in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy and India among others.
Primark's involvement in the village program is part of its efforts to improve ethical standards in the retail brand's £19 billion business which sources most of its garments from developing countries. Already 1,251 women have participated in the retailer's schemes which include yield-increasing programmes and healthcare drives. The company hopes to increase that figure to 10,000 in the next six years.
Although Primark does not have a figure of how much cotton it buys, it is the most common fabric that is used in its clothes. And though the company buys no cotton directly from farmers, its long-term strategy is to ensure all the cotton in its supply chain is sourced sustainably. After China, India is the world's second largest producer of cotton. The majority of the world's 100 million cotton farmers are smallholders in developing countries. Far away from the city, the industry can be brutal to farmers who face competition from unfair world prices and unscrupulous middle men. Many farmers find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of debt and poverty.
For farmers, the challenges range from the impact of climate change, poor prices for seed cotton, by way of competition from highly subsidised producers in rich countries.