Ananthoo's updates

When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bio Cotton! my new love!

man! cotton is such a fascinating stuff..as a serious follower of agriculture and in the context of anti-GM politics, cotton had a different dimension for me. BT cotton is full of contradictions and flaw..lots of failures and health hazards that I didnt see the cotton there but only the politricks behind it and foul play of the MNCs.

Then I did have some stories on cotton seed oil entering our food cycle (and hence BT) and the compromise we make by consuming refined oil.
I also had the luck to go with kk on a cotton trail few months back!

But what i have now is all different from this.
an year and half ago when I visited Madurai Thalanmai, I had documented about the millets processing and how the women groups out there process the millets by hand. Then as we spoke about rain fed agri, it went on to cotton and since that is so soft on the ecology, I thought we shud do something extra..These small farmers who grow cotton organically that too rain fed shud be compensated more for their eco services..
so we thot they shudnt be selling their produce as raw cotton but with some value add..hence we pitched in and after cotton procurement put it to hand spinning, hand weaving, natural dyeing, manual stitching and buttons made of coconut shells! Can u think of a more eco friendly shirt? Low on water, low on energy, low on pollution, zero effluents!
But did it sell like hot cakes? NO! due to various reasons like no variety, only 2 sizes, it was just small sample, etc.

Now we want to go ahead and make this a more structured bigger project involving some 15 farmers which wud translate to 30 acres. this wud also offer livelihood to 15 weaver families apart from the 15 farmers. Add a few more in the form of stitching etc. sounds very interesting and noble!

So I had to try and learn more and as one goes closer, so many things are striking.
Phew..there is so much behind a garment..so many steps, so much process, so much creativity, value add..ofcourse in the chemical way- so much chemicals, effluents, pollution, sucking up of water, energy..
One wud shudder to sport a cloth if u really see it closer!
Add to that many more processes like knitting, printing, block, etc..just no end..
But the pity is the farmer at the end of a 10 month crop has been getting the same pittance for ages..a design house and hence a designer is the most benefited in this cycle. Ofcourse as my friend jai (who has done so much research and given me so much gyan) says ‘if the farmer has a clue of the value of the final product and the margins/revenue made by those he wud prolly chop them all’.
As for me I wud never dye a product and wud just live with unbleached off white stuff..
But for now, I will work on natural dyes along with machine spinning, hand weaving, manual stitching to somehow get the farmer some due. We intend setting up a replicable system so that many more such small and marginal farmers start (a cooperative or some hybrid model we come out with), run and benefit.
To share the nuances of weaving, hand spinning, dyeing etc means some reams shud pass by. Paucity and brevity stops me here. That’s all for another day.
More cotton stories later..for now wish us luck..try and read more on cotton, organic that too and other processes! value and respect any cloth and thank the farmer for having produced them year after year even though they were hardly compensated.

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