India is the second largest producer of cotton after Turkey. Although the crop occupies 5% of the country’s cultivated land, it currently uses more than half of the pesticides used in farming.
The Green Revolution in the late ‘60s introduced new hybrid seeds which were highly dependent on man made fertilizers and pesticides. The overuse of chemicals has resulted in poisoned water sources and loss of land fertility.
Chetna Organic represents over 5,000 smallholder cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and OrissaFive years ago ‘Project Chetna’ was launched in response to this problem and in 2009 the Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company Ltd (COAPCL) was incorporated as a national level farmer-owned Producer, representing nearly 5,500 smallholder cotton farmers based in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa [picture below]. The formation of COAPCL aims at providing the member farmers with a fair business alternative, providing access to markets, negotiating better prices and establishing links with retailers. The organic cotton is traceable, quality checked and internationally certified.
Bhaskar Chandra Adhikari, the State Coordinator for Chetna Organic in Andhra Pradesh, speaks of the conversion to organic cotton that is happening there: “In some villages we saw all the village members considering going organic and all the fields were organic.
They aren’t only producing cotton, they’re also producing soya and red gram. We identified about 1,520 villages like that, so it’s a great achievement”.
The aim is to end one-crop dependency
The drive to go organic also aims to support and generate other incomes apart from cotton, ending one-crop dependency, believing that the farmer needs food crops, cattle and biomass plants. Kohinur in Andhra Pradesh, is one of six villages implementing a watershed programme. They have constructed a lake which now provides fish and water for their crops.