The multi-year cotton project is expected to help around 6,000 farmers

The multi-year cotton project is expected to help around 6,000 farmers

The C&A Foundation, the charitable arm of fashion retailer C&A, has partnered with WWF India to promote the cultivation of organic cotton in the country.

The programme will be focused in the Satpuda-Pench corridor of Central India, adjacent to the ecologically important Pench Tiger Reserve. Through the partnership, the organisations will combine organic agriculture with environmental conservation to create what they claim will be a “win-win situation” for both farmers and nature.

The multi-year project is expected to help around 6,000 farmers 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."

Farmer training, though still in the prototype phase, has commenced this season. They will learn how to build the fertility of soil to increase yields, and make natural plant pesticides and compost. Farmers that complete the programme will be able to obtain organic certification, giving them better access to international organic cotton markets.

The aim of the programme is to reduce the financial burden on farmers, improving their livelihoods and creating incentives for them to practise sustainable agriculture and minimise the sale of land to other industries such as mining and commercial development.

"Sustainable agriculture plays an important role in conservation,” says Dr Sejal Worah, programme director for WWF India. “It is an important piece of the puzzle. 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 roll out of additional farmer training programmes in areas with both high biodiversity or threatened species and high cotton production.