In Tirupur, Tamil Nadu, a lot of processing plants still struggle with huge problems regarding work safety and process ecology. Although the approach to support the processors as a group to introduce better practise is very promising and good results are available, Solidaridad faces often the challenge that the companies they work with are not used to calculate pay-back times as a basis for investment. There is also some scepticism whether certain best practice would work in local settings, respectively which advisor one can trust. As Tirupur is also a place where a lot of suppliers with commercial interest can be found.
H&M addresses the topic of ecology in wet processing with minimum requirements the company defined by itself. The cleaner production program (a tool developed with Beco, NCPC Inida) has been introduced to 32 dyeing factories in three different countries.
Huntsman, wants us to consider that the natural dyes as even more polluting than the synthetic ones. Just the area to plant indigo for denim dyeing each year would need the area of the size of Switzerland. Natural dyestuff needs more time in processing and even more water than the synthetic pigments.
A question that remained unsolved was about who has to be blamed as responsible (government and/or the dyestuff company) for selling chemicals to Tirupur’s processing companies, knowing well that they even do not dispose of any waste water treatment.
Posted in value chains
In session 25 we learned from Veronika Utz, DED an important success factor in co-operation: working with already committed people and already initiated value chains. Even if the value chain is weak, comittment of the people is very important. Veronika is working with a women producer group in Laos which does craftwork out of organic cotton. The women are very greatfull for the support they get. They for instance conducted a small market survey that helped very much to align their range of products to the demand of consumers. Two business women helped the women group to make their business fit for the market. Today you can already order products from them via an online shop.
Sidi El’Moctar N’Guiro est directeur du Mobion, l’association faîtière des producteurs de coton bio du Mali. Il est venu à Interlaken rencontrer des partenaires de longue date et trouver de nouveaux clients désireux de soutenir la filière du coton bio d’Afrique occidentale.
Au Burkina Faso, 500 tonnes de coton bio de la récolte 2008 n’ont pas trouvé preneur. François Traoré, porte-parole des cultivateurs de coton africain et président de l’Association des producteurs de coton africains, nous expose son inquiétude. Il est venu à Interlaken pour trouver un débouché pour le coton bio-équitable produit grâce au travail acharné des petits producteurs parmi lesquels on trouve un grand nombre de femmes.
The World Congress on Organic Cotton kicked off this morning with its opening session. Three speakers provided food for thoughts and framed the issues that this congress will address in the coming days.
Melchior Lengsfeld form Helvetas recalled the work his organisation is doing on organic cotton and fair trade. Helvetas is committed already for several years in promoting sustainable management of natural resources. It now supports about 50000 farmers and families in producing and trading organic cotton. In his views, it is clear that nobody can promote and manage organic and fair trade cotton all alone; it’s only possible to do that by building true partnerships and working together along the value chain to make it sustainable. Farmers, processors, traders, retailers have different interests, hence it’s important to create spaces to discuss openly about the challenges ahead and understand each others. This congress aims at providing such opportunity for dialogue and exchange.
Peter Tschannen from Remei AG offered the perspective of a manufacture that recently switched all production to organic textile. For Peter ‘organic’ has been a choice of life for many years now, and in the 1990s together with Patrick Hohmann started a project with cotton producers in India. Their vision is to improve the leaving conditions of small farmers, integrate them in the value chain and make consumers aware of the issues of rural development and agriculture in developing countries. What started almost as an hobby is now a leading organization in the sector, described as a successful business model.
Today, organic cotton constitute almost 55% of all cotton consumption. Organic clothing has becoming mainstreamed, but a lot of challenges are still very much present.
To start with, farmers need training and education; besides, they are very vulnerable and affected by the current economic crisis. Besides, prices have to be decent and still in line with the market. All this requires patience and the creation of partnerships among producers, manufacturers and retailers all willing to work in a long term perspective and not keen on “quick money.” Further, we need to broad the perspective and not think only about cotton, but also about ecology and the all supply and production chain.
In this perspective, the WCOC 2009 provides a great opportunity to make the different stakeholders aware of the needs and enormous possibilities that are opening up in the sector; it’s the ideal platform to “share views and opinions and learn from each others.”
Lastly, David Bannell from Organic Exchange elaborated on the issues of broadening the perspective and moving the discourse from organic cotton to sustainable textile. Brands have power and decisions on all aspects of value change; they don’t see difference between cotton and other fibers, they are just interested in the product. Therefore, it’s crucial to talk now about sustainable textile, and to clearly define what we mean with it. Further, he recalled the importance of working together along the all value chain, advocating for more collaboration and less competition
I am Jens Soth, agronomist and environmental engineer and have been trying to improve the environmental and social soundness of products for some decades now.
In the last years the discussion about agricultural commodities changed rapidly and I see the big family of organic cotton being a dynamic and engaged change agent within this trend.
Happy to contribute to the discussion I will try to keepp an eye on the discussions moving ahead and more partnerships being established to bring the entire movement ahead.