If you happen to buy an organic cotton shirt — in Delhi, London or elsewhere — don’t be surprised to know that the basic raw material, seed cotton, has been procured from a non-descript Indian village.
The benefit of growing awareness about organic products in the West is percolating down to the remote villages of India, where more and more farmers are taking to organic farming, often joining hands to form a community.
One such project — Vasudha — launched from village Karhi in Madhya Pradesh is now one of the largest organic farming projects in India. A brainchild of Indore-based textile firm Pratibha Syntex Ltd, it today engages 28,000 farmers and is spread over 1.25 lakh acres of farmland across Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa.
“Organic farming has multiple benefits. Over a period of time the farmland becomes more fertile and builds immunity to pest attacks. We have seen the yields go up from 350 kg of seed cotton per acre, when we started the project, to over 800 kg per acre,” said Shreyaskar Chaudhary, managing director of Pratibha Syntex.
Organic farming has been a win-win proposition for all the parties concerned — the farmers and the manufacturers, mostly based in the US and Europe.
The income levels of the farmers have increased considerably as their input costs have come down by almost 30 to 40 per cent. What’s more, the farmers get roughly 30 per cent more (Rs 500-700 per quintal more) for organic cotton as compared to the ordinary variety. The fibre quality is also better, and all this has been achieved without making use of the genetically modified (GM) seeds.
US-based companies, who are facing shortage of organic yarn, are also keen to promote organic farming in India. Bernard Chaus Inc — a leading manufacturer and importer of women’s sportswear in US — recently gave a financial grant of $ 47,044 (Rs 20 lakh) to Vasudha. The company sources part of its raw material needs from Indore-based Pratibha Syntex.
Last year, farmers associated with Vasudha produced around 34,000 metric tonne of cotton, which was cultivated on roughly 63,000 acres. Farmers also grew pulses and grains on the rest of the organic farmland.
Experts regularly monitor farming activities and guide the farmers on complete waste management, recycling and adopting better farming practices.
“Everything we use on our farms is produced using indigenous method,” says Goverdhan Tiwari, who owns about 14 acres of farmland in village Baghphal, about 55 km from Indore.
However, use of organic fabric is yet to become a fad in India. The organic clothing retail sales in the US and Europe was $3.5 billion last year as against less than $1 million in India.