From farmer's land to vegetable market... Must know info about agri supply chain..! - Part 17

Tula facilitates the revival of traditional cotton variety!

(This is a series of deliberations about the politics behind popular market and the opportunities for successful organic agriculture markets as well as alternative markets)

In the last part, we have seen how OFM has been successfully functioning by integrating many small organic shops cooperatively. With the collective efforts of the youths who are part of the program these small shops have proved to be successful. The maximum profit these youths get is only 20%. But they are not keen only on profit but they also share their social concerns and responsibilities.

These organic small stores under OFM in Tamil Nadu have been functioning only in Chennai. In India, it is a novel effort because though it does not need much investment it prioritizes ethical trading.

Tula store

It is a similar kind of effort by ‘Go Organic Life’, an innovative distribution system. It is briefly named as ‘GOL’. Many small organic stores stumble to establish as there is scarcity of reliable and quality organic products.

On the other side, there are farmers who switched to organic cultivation continue to suffer due to lack of a good market and also honest pricing for their products. GOL is established with an intention to procure organic agriculture products and distribute them to small stores. It procures the organic products, cleans, packs and distributes them. Currently, it’s functioning with an intention to make the farmers as investors.

Restore and OFM have joined together to form ‘Food Safety Consortium’, intending to create awareness among the consumers. In Tamil Nadu, this Consortium has been conducting many programs disseminating details about the importance of food safety, harmful effects of toxic foods and, genetically modified crops, the politics behind those harmful campaigns, the state of farmers and farmers’ suicide. There are lawyers, traders, human right activists, farmers, consumers and educationists who have joined the Consortium.

In the recent meeting conducted by the Consortium, there was a discussion on farmers’ suicide. We were convinced that organic farming and sustainable and self reliant efforts only could be the solution. One of the volunteers who was in the meeting questioned us, ‘Most of the farmers who committed suicide in India were cotton growers. Why haven’t we worked with cotton growing farmers?’ It made us think deeply about his concern. ‘Tula’ has been initiated based on that question. Tula means a weighing scale.

Cotton

We decided to procure organically grown cotton from farmers, giving them a better price and sell them after value addition. In this regard we had been to meet some textile spinners and weavers. Those weavers who we met were in miserable condition. Most of them were at the verge of abandoning their profession. As the society failed to respect those wonderful artistes they were unable to get what they deserve in terms of their hand art and also respectful price for their products. That is why they continued to live in abject economic condition.

The important reason for this problem is that the value chain of cotton has been swallowed by the mills of mega industrialists. These mills have shattered the livelihoods of those who are involved in spinning, dying and weaving and also have seriously polluted the environment. River Noyyal is the direct victim of the environmental degradation and pollution that we could very well witness about.

We decided to opt for hand weaving and bringing out beautiful handloom dresses in order to solve the problem of wrongful value chain of cotton. By doing this the neighborhood economy will also grow richer, thereby improving the rural development and local economy. With our country filled with villages, this should be the best way towards its development. Therefore, we started Tula to operate in harmony with nature, founded on ethics, and to reconstruct the value chain of cotton that facilitates self reliance. This is a not for profit social organization.

From the team of Pamayan, an environmental activist, 15 organic farmers from Madurai and Thirumangalam were chosen and encouraged to grow rainfed cotton that are not genetically modified but are of traditional varieties in 30 acres of land. The cotton from the farm was bought and sent to Gandhigram for spinning, hand looming and dying. We borrowed Rs 15 lakhs as an investment for this effort from 15 friends, one lakh from each. The livelihood of about 75 farmers, including 15 farmers, 40 manual spinners, 10 weavers, 5 dyers, and 15 tailors, was upgraded.

Not as a raw material, the cotton produced had reached the market as a product of textile. It was heartily welcomed by the friends and consumers. Those who wear dresses from Tula can proudly stroll about with a sense of satisfaction that they support the livelihoods of ordinary members of the society. The dresses of Tula are the best products on our earth that are utmost environmental friendly and ensuring honest trade at the same time. They are the products of pure human energy without blemishes of utilizing any other form of energy.

Cotton

The next year after Tula was started, we procured organic cotton from ‘Sahaja Samruta’, operating in the state of Karnataka, with an investment of Rs 15 lakhs. They focused only on our traditional variety of cotton. They contribution proved to be a great support for Tula. In continuation to that the number of farmers who are involved in this profession has increased through Tula.

On year three, we entered Vidharba in the state of Maharashtra. This is the land which has buried many cotton growing farmers within itself. Tula has started growing by joining hands with the farmers of that place. It grew rapidly within a short period, with less investment, perfect financial management and discipline of work. At present, Srinath has been taking care of Tula by integrating its activities. Having inspired by Nammazhwar, he left his IT job and joined Tula.

Like him, Swaminathan has been reviving the use of Karungkanni cotton, a traditional cotton variety and disseminating it with the support of Tamil Nadu Agriculture University. Those are the youths our faith rests on.

For contact: Srinath

Mobile: 91764 19562

(This series of articles written in Tamil by Ananthu for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 25th Nov 2017 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)

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