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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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cotton- holy crop!



I always hated cotton as a crop..since it came as a ‘cash crop’ and displaced so much of food crop and destroyed the farmers livelihood..what was done with right moderation till a few decades ago took a greedy route like most other things..
All for some western fallacy called style and the Indian elite’s copied fashion statements..
So the habit of buying so many dresses and garments became a norm, sadly..
When we were in college we hardly had 2 pairs of pants and 3-4 shirts/tops..
So whats wrong u may ask?
One, it is unneeded consumerism- festering commerce for the heck of it like the stupid west!
Two- it has been so unfair, all along..all thru the value chain.
Just to make it clear:
Roughly it takes one kg raw cotton to make one shirt! Now see  what a farmer gets for it and what it is sold for..ofcourse this is not like other products where a middle man makes a killing..ofcourse there are other processes..but if you happen to watch it close, the ones who perspire the max are paid peanuts:-( like the farmer, spinner, weaver, tailor!

In a nut shell this is the line of process:
Cotton harvest > Ginning > Prespinning > Spinning > Weaving > Dyeing > Stitching
Other additional ‘value adds’ like Knitting > printing = Loads of effluents, chemicals, wasted water and energy!!

In order to contribute positively and try to change some perceptions, some processes, some livelihoods and income, we- a bunch of volunteers/enviro friends/activists, have joined together under the name “Tüla” and bring the lightest garments you can ever sport.
Whats Tüla? We needed a name..and its simple, short..means cotton in Sanskrit. Means ‘balance’ as in Tulabaaram! So here we offer a balance, justice to the stake holders and also bring the lightest as far as the carbon footprint is concerned..

The amount of chemicals, poisonous pesticides that goes in to growing it, processing it, in dyeing, knitting, printing etc? how much of  an environmental impact happens before we sport a neat pair of dress?
The amount water that is spent in making of the cloth/garment? The virtual water?
The energy spent in the form of power etc?
If we in India are processing the most cotton in the world and especially dyeing major portion of the yarn in the world, its not bcos we are good at it..its just bcos we don’t care about the environment fall out – no rules, no regulation, no self-discipline nor awareness..thats why we have screwed up a river totally (noyyal river in erode) and even to this day polluting with total disdain!
So the west who would want to do rockets, oil, nukes and ammos, cant dye is it? They just do not want to waste so much water nor pollute their surroundings..and here we are..happily screwing ourselves and dishing it to the world! Dying to Dye, eh?
At least 4000-5000 litres of water goes up the drain behind each shirt.
The big huge heavy investment gobbling spinning mills and power Looms meant displacing so many lifes/livelihoods. What was a simple nice, processed locally stuff became a fashion statement, energy gobbler and ridden with pollution and carbon foot print.
So its time we looked at hand spun and hand woven. Why do you think that great man Gandhi promoted Khadi? And as a symbol of rural livelihood, sovereignty and swadeshi! ask JC Kumarappa if you want more.

If ever you happen to look at chemical dyeing closely, you would choose to wear only whites (no colors !) and there too to avoid the heavy chemical washes and bleaching the kora- off white, naturals is the best wear. Infact it’s really fabulous..
my wish is Tüla will get there: getting more than 50% of its fabric and garments in kora..its not far off, let me warn you..(if you know us, we from restore did that for organic vegetables, millets and now lets do it to cotton too)

So what can you do : I?
JUST DON’T BUY! ok don’t buy so many clothes..do not buy any thing more than you really need..
And if you still have to, understand, be aware and make the right choice.
Let it be organically grown cotton (remember , 55% of all pesticides used in India is for cotton- a crop that is grown in only 5% of our agricultural land) hand spun, hand woven (bcos it enhances or restores some of the lost livelihoods and practice) natural dyed, manual stitched (again livelihoods) garments. Like Tüla!!!
What Tula does is:


·         Improve the income of the rainfed small & marginal farmers through low external input organic cotton production

·         Improve the income of the hand spinners and handloom weavers and create livelihood out of spinning & weaving (continuously)

·         Sharing the profit in an ethical manner to all stakeholders from production to consumption – across the value chain

·         Eradicate the harmful pesticides and chemical inputs from farming areas employing sustainable agricultural practices! Conserve ecology in effect. Apply ecofriendly practices and low energy methods.

·         Promote natural dyeing for textile as an alternative for the present crisis for Tirupur textile industry  and as a best practice.

·         organic fabric and garments for conscious consumers

·         presenting this whole model as a ecological & economically sustainable model for groups of small farmers to replicate anywhere. (pl note that more than 50% of the farmer suicides is in the cotton belt and thats the prime reason for us to initiate such a project)
Yes Tüla garments will be available at restore and at a few exhibitons we plan to have in Chennai and Bangalore.
The first of the series is planned for tomorrow! Yes moro 18th jan 2014!! At restore, Kottivakkam. (see here for map and more info)

what can you do II: You can buy and support this or invest in to this project and participate. Write to me if you want to participate by investing. also if you can develop and maintain a website or blog for this.

PS: mind you, I haven’t gone in to my favourite (oh! Can one call this sad state a favourite?) bashing subject of Bt Cotton- its effects on humans, farmers, their livelihoods, seed sovereignty, animals, environment, ecology and what not..today, In India, 95% of the cotton (seeds) in the market is from one company – Monsanto and its genetically modified..so what you get to sport is always this GM Bt cotton garments. To avoid that too you are urged to go organic or go Tüla!

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