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About Fairtrade Organic Cotton


Soul Space clothing is made of 100% Fairtrade organic cotton. Soul Space Fairtrade clothing supports cotton farmers, to invest in their communities and protect the environment. Soul Space’s cotton is physically traceable through the supply chain from farm to end product, guaranteeing that 100% of the cotton is Fairtrade.

Soul Space's Fairtrade sourcing commitments are part of a global movement to address the deep-rooted problems in cotton farming and fashion production. Up to 100 million households are engaged in cotton farming worldwide, and 90% of them live in developing countries on farms with under five acres of land. These farmers are invisible and often disconnected from the market. Cotton farmers are subject to fluctuating, and often low, world cotton prices which sometimes don’t meet their costs of production or provide a living income. Cotton’s environmental impact is heavy: cotton uses only 2.4% of the world’s agricultural land but accounts for 24% of global insecticide use. 81% of cotton planting is genetically modified, and 53% of cotton is irrigated using freshwater taken from rivers or lakes, an inefficient process. Soul Space sees a better way.

Through Fairtrade, Soul Space and cotton farmers are working together to change the global cotton industry. There are 59,700 Fairtrade cotton farmers across Asia and Africa, each with an average of 3 acres of land. Around 60% of Fairtrade cotton is certified organic. 62,000 MT of Fairtrade cotton produced, with Fairtrade cotton farmers receiving € 644,000 of Premium (can we change tis to US$?), a Cooperative Investment Fund for producers. Fairtrade cotton farmers must meet strong environmental standards. As a result, an estimated 75% of Fairtrade cotton is rain-fed. Most importantly, over 77% of Fairtrade cotton farmers said that both their standard of living and quality of life improved after working with Fairtrade. Latest data shows that 38% of the Premium was invested in services for farmers – particularly agricultural tools and inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and equipment. 46% was invested in community projects – primarily education. Your purchase of Fairtrade fashion contributes to a healthy and sustainable environment.

Soul Space proudly supports the Fairtrade farmers of Chetna Organics, where we source our cotton and our organic and Fairtrade clothes are made.

© Bijal Vachharajani, via Fairtrade America

Farmers like Lingu Bai, who has been a Fairtrade certified farmer since 2007, inspire us with their stories. A legend in her village in Telangana’s Adilabad district, Lingu Bai has used her Fairtrade Premium to invest in her cotton farm and become an entrepreneur by starting a poultry business. “I have one son and one daughter,” said Lingu Bai, whose entire family is into farming. “We have always been organic farmers, for generations. We continue to practice it because we see a profit in it.” When Lingu Bai is not farming, she takes care of her family. She proudly showed off her grandson, a baby, Pawan Kalia to us. Lingu Bai stands tall as the head of her family – a proud matriarch, and a proud cotton farmer. Buying Fairtrade clothing such as Soul Space help support farmers like Lingu Bai.

Environmental Benefits of Organic Cotton:

Argo-ecological Impacts:

Biodiversity:

Conventional Cotton:

Potential loss through high synthetic agrochemical use, monoculture and GM seed usage.

Organic Cotton:

 Increase of biodiversity due to less indiscriminate killing of buds, varied crop production and use of local species as border crops.

Climate Change:

Conventional Cotton:

Nitrogen synthetic fertilizers are a major contributor to increased N2O emissions, which are 300 times more potent than CO2 as greenhouse gas, which is ominous for global warming. Conventional crops more likely to fail in extreme weather episodes.

Organic Cotton:

Contribution to the mitigation of climate change by avoiding energy intensive mineral fertilizer and therefore minimizing the emission of the greenhouse gas N2O from fields and increase of soil organic matter contents. Adaptation: Organic agriculture displays greater resistance to extreme climatic conditions.

Chemicals:

Conventional Cotton:

Threats to ecological health and safety. Four substances alone, namely endosulfan, diafenthiuron lambdacyhalothrin and chlorphyrifos, and responsible for around 60% of the hazard posed to fish. (ICAC).

Organic Cotton:

No toxic and persistent chemicals permitted. Equating also to a farmer being a ‘more responsible neighbor’ e.g. no chemical spray drift, leaching to groundwater, contamination or surface water, etc.

Energy Use:

Conventional Cotton:

Rising cost of fossil fuels affecting costs of farm machinery, fertilizers and other resource-intensive farming activities.

Organic Cotton:

No use of fossil fuels in inputs (besides use of machinery). Indirect energy (and carbon)

savings through no imported, synthetic agrichemical inputs.

Seed Diversity:

Conventional Cotton:

Increasing dominance of genetically modified (GM) cotton seed can result in loss of local/native species of cotton. In addition to the argo-ecological concerns (such as reduced seed diversity, increase in secondary pests, and high water needs) GM seeds also place a financial burden on farmers.

Organic Cotton:

Since GM seed is not permitted in organic production it is more likely that seeds will vary between countries, states, growing areas etc. It is also more likely that seeds will be saved and/or bred for specific growing conditions. More effort (including R&D) is required to keep non-GM, high performance seed available to farmers.

Soil:

Conventional Cotton:

Monoculture and overuse of fertilizers deplete soils, in turn making them more dependent on artificial fertilizers. Soil erosion (and loss of precious topsoil) is a significant concern for many farmers.

Organic Cotton:

Organic uses natural, local materials for composting/soil maintenance & conservation. ‘Low till’ organic reduces soil erosion and acts as a carbon sink. Rotation and other crops help balance the nutrient demands of cotton.

Water:

Conventional Cotton:

Water consumption: Growing of cotton on irrigated land consumers large amounts of water. As well as causing local water shortages, inefficient irrigation can lead to environmental damage and in some cases catastrophes. Agrochemicals damage the soil which turns into lower water retention.

Water contamination: Fertilizers and pesticides contaminate water and groundwater. Runoff can contaminate neighboring land.

Organic Cotton:

Water Consumption: Organic is more likely to be rain fed, although irrigation is also used. Either way, organic is said to be less ‘thirsty’ than conventional cotton (in part due to the water holding capacity of organic soils); holding up to 30-50% more moisture than non-organic.

Less water contamination: No chemicals equates to no ground or surface water contamination. No excess chemicals

leaching into groundwater or contaminating surface water.

Socio-economic Benefits of Organic Cotton:

Access to Finance:

Conventional Cotton:

Financial ‘support’ is often tied into seed and agrichemical ‘package deals’ from big companies. This can lead to a cycle of debt if farmers receive low prices for their crops.

Organic Cotton:

Ethical lending, rural investment, micro-finance more likely to target farmers or Producer Groups engaged in proven sustainable business and agricultural models (such as organic).

Cultural Diversity:

Conventional Cotton:

Production likely to be heavily influenced by seed and chemical companies- potentially leading to a loss of traditional/cultural techniques, skills and local adaptation.

Organic Cotton:

NGO/funding ‘projects’ likely to target poorer/ marginalized rural communities. Traditional techniques more likely to be used and local materials (plants etc) used for biological inputs. Access to local seed varieties/impacts cultural preservation and diversity. Skills and knowledge transfer between science communities and grower communities more likely.

Food Security:

Conventional Cotton:

Conventional cotton growing tends to depend on one crop at the cost of food security for farmers and communities. When other crops are grown in close proximity to ‘conventional’ cotton there is the risk of chemical residues making their way into food supply.

Organic Cotton:

Community food security through the production of other food crops as part of the organic cotton farm system. Residue-free food crops grown as part of the organic cotton system.

Gender:

Conventional Cotton:

In some counties cash crops tend to be men’s domain. With food crops being women’s. Often leading to men controlling all income.

Organic Cotton:

No pesticides means no exposure risk to mothers or pregnant women’s health, babies or unborn babies. Women often ‘in charge’ of food crops- organic cotton part of a food crop system. More likelihood of women having independent income (to spend on household and family needs). Females more likely to be in charge of farmer training, head producer groups or head up ICS (internal control systems) Role-models for girls.

Health and Safety:

Conventional Cotton:

Threat to farmer health and safety as well as ecological health and safety. Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization. 

Organic Cotton: 

No chemical exposure for farmers and consumers since no toxic and persistent chemicals permitted. Less risk of accidental poisoning or suicide by poisoning.

Labor:

Conventional Cotton:

Labor issues are found in cotton growing in some areas – as with most agriculture in poor rural areas. Issues include terms and conditions for seasonal and contract workers. Child labor and bonded labor in Uzbekistan are under the spotlight.

Organic Cotton:

Independent or ‘associated’ producer groups equates to fairer and more autonomous working conditions. Producer groups more likely to share skills, resources and labor. Child labor not raised as an issue, increased income leads to children attending school. No farmer suicides reported on organic farms.

Producer Organization:

Conventional Cotton:

More likely to be sold via trader or sold direct to commodity market.

 Organic Cotton:

Producer groups usually involve elective management and democratic decision making. This may even reach upstream in the value chain. Resources and skill are often shared. Community considerations and village needs often considered by Producer Group when it comes to spending profit.

Rural Economic Development:

Conventional Cotton:

Conventional financial systems favor urban economic development or large scale industrial agriculture.

Organic Cotton:

Reversed rural migration due to better incomes and job prospects. Higher status given to organic growers (as reported by Agrocel, India). Spin-off industries such as manufacturing biological pesticides (eg. neem), locally produced green manure or value adding to farm system crops for domestic market eg. drying fruit is encouraged. Growth of local food markets.

Sustainable Income:

Conventional Cotton:

Farmer debt: Too many cotton farmers are trapped in poverty, debt cycles and committing suicide due to high cost of farm inputs and low profits.

Organic Cotton:

Premium on fiber price and reduced input costs due to use of organic fertilizers. Depending on terms of contract more likely to include timely payment, guaranteed sales etc. Increase of farmers’ income due to organic premiums and reduced input costs. Reduced vulnerability of farmers’ livelihoods (by avoiding debts for the purchase of external inputs and by diversifying the farm through crop rotation and intercropping. Crop diversification leads

to secondary income (esp. if one crop fails) and food security.

Wellbeing:

Conventional Cotton:

Conventional cotton growing tends to depend on one crop at the cost of food security for farmers and communities. When other crops are grown in close proximity to ‘conventional’ cotton, there is the risk of chemical residues making their way into food supply.

Organic Cotton:

Organic premium leads to more cash for educating children and health care and producer associations know to finance health care for farmers. Higher income leads to better quality housing (TE KPI research). No pesticides – no contamination of drinking water or residue in food crops.

All information about the benefits of organic cotton versus conventional cotton from the Textile Exchange.

“Benefits of Organic.” Textile Exchange, 2011, farmhub.textileexchange.org/learning-zone/all-about-organic-cotton/benefits-of-organic

“Organic Cotton Environmental Benefits - LCA Data and Savings.” About Organic Cotton, 2016, aboutorganiccotton.org/environmental-benefits/.

“Organic Cotton Social and Economic Benefits - What Are the Savings?” Aboutorganiccotton.org, 2016, aboutorganiccotton.org/social-economic-benefits/.