Currently 1 in 9 people suffer from chronic hunger. Widespread undernourishment is a complex situation with conflict, climate change, poverty and systems of inequality all contributing. Talking about fashion in the face of such a serious issue can seem pretty futile. Yet fashion plays an important role in reaching the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger. Here’s why!
“Research shows that organic agriculture is a good option for food security... and is more sustainable in the long term”United Nations Conference of Trade and Development
The countries home to 98% of the people currently suffering from chronic hunger, are also home to 99% of the world’s cotton farmers. This shows a devastating link, but also an exciting opportunity, between cotton farming and food insecurity. Small-scale farmers are the majority of people in the world who experience food insecurity, yet also play a crucial role in food security.
Current conventional cotton farming is dominated by genetically modified cotton (GMO) which needs huge amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilisers to grow. Farmers are encouraged by corporations (we’re looking at you, Monsanto) to take out loans to buy these seeds and chemicals under the promise of increased yields and income. However, these promises never materialise in a sustainable way and farmers are trapped under producing GMO cotton and growing debt. This type of farming enforces monocropping (planting cotton and only cotton) which ruins soil conditions and isn’t resilient to changes in climate. The result? Failing crops and people with no savings to buy food to support themselves.
Organic farming is a way out of the cycle of debt and food insecurity. Farmers use techniques built off local knowledge, that has been tried and tested for thousands of years, and work with the environment instead of manipulating it with intense chemicals. Organic farming creates better quality of soil, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, increases employment opportunities in rural areas and creates higher incomes. On top of all this, it even plays an important role in food security. Intercropping and crop diversity (planting lots of different types of crops together) means that even if the main crop fails, such as cotton, farmers still have a field full of food produce to eat and sell locally. This increases the food security of not only the farmers household, but the local community.
Our amazing cotton farmers are a part of a organic farming co-operative in India called Chetna Organic. Despite only starting in 2004, Chetna is now made up of 34,000 farmers!
Athram Gaderao is one of these farmers. After a government scheme encouraged him to use agrochemicals, the high input costs and monocropping meant he saw his profits rapidly decline and food supply become unreliable. He joined Chetna Organic in 2007 to return to organic cotton farming, with around 50% of his land producing food crops. He is now almost entirely self-sufficient, his profit has almost doubled and 60% of his food produce is sold to nearby markets! His advice now?
“All farmers in the country (should) get back to natural practices that our forefathers used to follow - no chemicals, loans and no health problems”Athram Gaderao
Organic Cotton Farmer in Adilabad, India
This is the type of transformation supporting organic cotton farming can produce, and is why KTO is so excited about it!