The Peulh tribe are traditionally cattle herders and have been marginalised by other communities. Organic cotton has allowed the Peulh organic cotton farmers to build standing in the eyes of others. The Peulh children, of school age, now go to the same school as the other children in the villages.
…the opportunities offered to me through organic cotton production are limitless, and I need to take advantage of these opportunities if I want my children to go to school as the other kids and in the same schools. My daughter is going to the village collage and is in Year 10…
Sion Ngoby (right), North Benin
Producer Group: OBEPAB (Kassakou, Kandi, North Benin)
In the village of Kassakou, Kandi, North Benin there are two organic cotton farmers’ groups of about 70 farmers, with more than 15 years experience in organic farming. Their leader M. Sion Ngoby believes that organic farming is the best for them.
After the harvest, we sell our cotton and do not need to deduct any credit fees from our income. We prefer suffering in the morning and to live the best life in the evening.
Evelyn Atekolele, Benin
Producer Group: OBEPAB (Nizoumey Village, Benin)
When Evelyn, from Benin grew conventional cotton she suffered miscarriages possibly caused by pesticides. She realized converting to organic was the way to finally stop her exposure to toxic substances.
Organic cotton has given me more independence as a woman, because I receive a better income, and I am paid immediately after the harvest. I am now able to buy luxuries, clothing, and crockery, something which is a real pleasure because I couldn’t do it before. And more importantly, my children’s health is no longer at risk.
As with most of the bioRe farms, the Maganga family’s land is divided into three main crops: cotton, sorghum (or maize), and peanuts or pigeon pea acting as the soil nitrogen-fixer. All crops in rotation contribute to the family’s food security. Each year the crops rotate so every third year the land is benefiting from the nitrogen from the legumes.
After having joined BioRe as an Organic cotton contract farmer, we were introduced to additional cash crops like sunflower and mung beans. This enables us to earn extra money over and above the cotton production. For example this year the maize crop failed due to poor rains but we were food secure because of the extra income from sunflower and mung beans, so we could buy our own food. Meanwhile we also eat mung beans which are nutritious … although not our traditional food.
Ergeshova Asylkan, Kyrgyzstan Producer Group: Bio Farmers Coop (Shaidan village, Jalal-Abad County,Kyrgyzstan)
Since the start in 2004 the organic movement in Kyrgyzstan has grown from 34 pioneer farmers to currently over 1400 small organic certified farmers out of which 20% are women. Ergeshova Asylkan has been an organic cotton farmer for Bio Farmers Coop since 2009.
I have many cattle. I can use their dung in organic farming. Before, I didn’t know where to sell the cotton, but with organic farming I know that I can sell it easily. In addition, we get back the cotton seeds and the cake. With organic farming the soil in our field has become more fertile.
Shamshieva Sonunai, Kyrgyzstan Producer Group: Bio Farmer Coop (Shaidan village, Jalal-Abad County, Kyrgyzstan)
Shamshieva Sonunai is an organic cotton farmer. She has been a village bio inspector, for the Bio Farmers Coop since 2005.
With the organic farming our field has become more fertile; we learned how to organize proper crop rotation. Besides, the income from organic farming is higher in comparison with conventional farming. This year I started working as village bio inspector (VBI). The work is difficult but very interesting. I want to prove that a woman can also work as VBI.
Duryodan Majh, India Producer Group: Chetna Organic (Tentulipada village, Bhawanipatna, Kalahandi District, Odisha, India)
Tentulipada village is located in the Bhawanipatna block of the Kalahandi District in Southwestern Odisha. The location is part of the Koraput – Bolangir – Kalahandi region that has drawn the attention of the world because of its persistent poverty, malnutrition and social exploitation as a result of underdevelopment.
When market prices for 100 kg seed cotton are about 3,600 rupees in the local markets, we are able to fetch 4,200 rupees at farm gate, which works out to a direct 600 rupees (12%) cash benefit as a result of aggregation, processing and marketing directly through our own producer company. This apart, there are other cash savings in the form of transportation charges, commissions, weighing losses, waiting charges and other incidentals that work out to an additional 10-12%.
Chandu Nikore (Front), India Producer Group: Chetna Organic (Talegoan Village, Maharashtra, India)
Many cotton farmers fear that the rising cost of inputs (fertilisers, pesticides, GM seeds etc) will result in them not making a living from their cotton crop. Or worse plunge them into debt. This ‘debt trap’ has reportedly led to suicide by cotton farmers not able to see a way out.
We heard about the organic farming but were not very sure about the processes and the results. However, when we realized that at least we would be free from the pressure of debt collectors who are at our doorstep almost daily, we thought it is worth a try. We are now enjoying the benefits of organic farming through diversifying our crops, adding additional income and feeling more secure.
Rene Gaitan Ortiz, Nicaragua Producer Group: El Porvenir Cooperative (3 kms from the town of El Porvenir, Northwest Nicaragua)
The El Porvenir (The Future) Cooperative is made up of 43 families. The Cooperative has been producing a very high quality organic coffee for many years, and in 2010 began growing registered organic cotton seed for organic cotton production. Rene Gaitan Ortiz is Vice-president of the El Porvenir Cooperative.
We have had here quite a visible change. With organic production we have been able to change and renovate. Now we have a school and running water in our community. Today we have hope and we have achieved something.
Francisco Almeida, Peru Producer Group: Ecotton (El Carmen, Chincha, Ica, Peru)
Francisco spent three years in transition to organic and now been fully organic for two years. Ecotton provide their organic cotton farmers with ongoing technical support and advice, as well as offer more stable prices and premiums for their efforts and more ecologically sustainable product.
When I used to apply chemicals, I often felt dizzy and nauseous, now I never feel like that. Working with a company like Ecotton, has given me the opportunity to receive training in organic practices, but also in agricultural techniques that I didn´t know. The compost and humus storehouse that they funded has helped my community get an additional income, by selling what we don´t use.
Carl Pepper, USA Producer Group: Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative (Lubbock, Texas, USA)
Organic cotton farming is a rare sight in the heart of “the world’s largest cotton patch.” Over 90 percent of cotton grown in the USA is genetically modified and herbicides such as roundup are commonly used. However, Lubbock Texas is well-suited to the production of organic cotton. Winter temperatures are cold enough to limit insect pressure and provide a hard freeze to defoliate the cotton plants prior to mechanical harvest. In addition, a sunny climate and quick-drying soils facilitate timely weed control.
I am an economic environmentalist. Most things that are good for the soil are economically smart too. You’ve got to look at the long term too, sometimes if you make a short term decision that is pushed by finances, you can hurt yourself long term. It’s got to fit both worlds – it’s got to be economically sustainable and agriculturally sustainable.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
Choose Organic Cotton
Next time you shop for cotton products – choose organic.
Check For Certification
Make sure your organic cotton product is certified by checking the label.
Spread The Word
Talk about organic cotton to your family and friends – in person or on social media.
Ask For Organic Cotton
Tell your favorite brands that you want to see more organic cotton in their products.