The World Health Organization estimates that globally at least three million people are poisoned by pesticides every year, and more than 200,000 die.
Conventional cotton cultivation uses almost 60% of all toxic chemicals produced in India. Besides the environmental and health problems this creates, pesticide and fertilizer use often exhausts soils, resulting in a negative spiral of pesticide usage and debt for the farmers.
Our organic cotton is sourced from the Chetna Organic Cotton project, in which more than 8,000 farming families are now involved from the rain-fed regions of Andhra Pradesh (Telengana), Maharashtra (Vidarbha) and Western Orissa (Kalahandi & Bolangir). The project, registered as a Fair Trade producer by Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International and certified organic by GOTS, is one of the largest organic cotton projects in India.
Our organic cotton products are all manufactured in the Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills in Kolkata, India. Rajlakshmi has been supporting the Chetna project since its inception in 2004, and now purchases almost all the project's Fairtrade and organic cotton. Rajlakshmi is truly a "best in class" garment factory, run by a truly inspirational man; Rajat Jaipuria. Rajat and his team produce Fair Trade and organic cotton apparel and bedding for many socially and environmentally conscious brands in the US, Europe and Australia.
Rajlakshmi outsources the spinning of their cotton to "Pacific Cotspin". This factory is ILO compliant and ISO 9001:2000 (quality management) certified, and is working with Rajlakshmi to implement the provisions of the Clean Clothes Campaign.
Rajlakshmi's production unit at Junglepur was commissioned in April 2007, exclusively producing organic cotton products, and providing many Fair Trade benfits to the workers, including:
- Subsidized housing
- Educational fees for all children up to the university level
- Free transportation to and from work
- Subsidized meals
- Medical care (in addition to the required national health insurance)
- Interest free loans
- Annual bonuses
- Guaranteed yearly pay rises
In addition, 10% of Rajlakshmi shares have been gifted to the Chetna farmers, so the farmers now receive a share of Rajlakshmi profits. A training centre is also under construction on the Rajlakshmi campus. Once completed, the centre will provide skills training for local youth and be available to workers to use for their own departmental trainings.
- Global Organic Textile Standard.
- FLOCERT (FLO ID 4512).
- ISO 9001:2000
- OEKOTEX 100
The Rajlakshmi/Chetna project produces high quality organic cotton goods and also aims to meet the criteria of fairness and justice for everyone in the production chain. There is more to be done, but we are proud to be associated with them, will strive to increase the range of their products in our catalogues, and will keep you informed of progress in their fields and factories.
More information about Rajlakshmi can be found here.
There are two great short videos available which give a good overview of why going organic is so important to the farmers, and the benefits of moving to organic cotton.
The Conventional Trap, by Altemeier and Somji, illustrates powerfully why the change to organic cotton production is so important to the health of the farming families. It tells the sad story of Anan, a peasant farmer in southern India caught up in the vicious cycle of pesticide-dependent cotton growing. You will see the effects of heavy use of pesticides on cotton, learn how international pesticide companies exploit cotton farmers and observe the tragic consequences of these conventional growing practices on the farmers, their families and their environment.
Growing Back to Organic, produced by Coyuchi, (a US customer of Rajlakshmi), in conjunction with Solidaridad, (a Netherlands NGO), is an upbeat and hopeful story of one farmer's and one village's move to organic and Fair Trade certified cotton production. It shows how the village of Peddasakeda made the decision to go back to the organic practices of earlier generations and explains the benefits and opportunities organic growing and Fair Trade certification offer.
You can view both movies here.
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A little about Asha Handicrafts: Asha Handicrafts provides the security of markets to small scale artisan workshops around India, like ANSA, the soapnut harvesters in Tamil Nadu.
New Internationalist Australia is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization, which means we have to stock a percentage of Fair Trade products, and also adhere to Fair Trade practices ourselves. Great for supporting producers rights, and also for our staff.
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