ORGANIC COTTON FARMERS
Q: How does converting to organic cotton production affect farmers’ livelihoods?
A: When organic cotton production and markets are working well there is a positive impact on livelihoods:
- It improves the food security of farmers – in order to improve soil health and deter pests, organic cotton farmers grow an average of 6-8 food crops alongside cotton, providing a direct source of fresh, organic food.
- It improves the food security of local communities – organic cotton farmers often sell their surplus food produce at local markets, improving the quantity, quality and variety of food available to the local community.
- It improves farmers’ net profit – despite yields sometimes being lower in organic farming, the dramatic reduction in farmers’ outgoings (from no longer having to buy expensive farm chemicals and seed), in addition to the higher price they usually receive for organic cotton, mean that small-scale organic cotton farmers’ net profits are comparable and often higher than in conventional systems. If farmers can manage without borrowing from moneylenders, or taking out loans at the beginning of the season, they are much better off.
- It improves farmers’ financial security – organic cotton farmers produce a variety of crops alongside cotton, spreading financial risk by providing multiple income streams. The higher resilience of organic crops in extreme weather events (such as drought and floods) also contributes to food or financial security.
- It gives power back to the farmer – organic cotton farmers usually produce their own organic inputs, meaning they are no longer tied into contracts with large corporations that often lead farmers into debt.
- It improves the health and safety of farmers and their families, since they are no longer exposed to the toxic chemicals usually applied to conventional cotton fields. This also reduces healthcare bills, allowing this money to be spent on other needs.
Q: How does organic cotton production impact food security?
A: Organic cotton promotes the food security of both farmer households and their communities. It improves food security for households since its production requires farmers to grow a number of food crops alongside cotton (to improve the soil and deter pests), providing them with a direct source of fresh, organic food. It also improves the food security of local communities since organic cotton farmers usually sell their surplus food crops on local markets – improving local food availability, quality and variety.