The Zameen Cotton Guarantee
The FAIRTRADE Mark guarantees a fair and stable price to the farmers and acts as a safety net, protecting farmers when the volatile global cotton market price drops below the sustainable cost of production. An additional sum, the Fairtrade premium, is earned per kilogram of cotton. This extra money is invested in community development projects that are democratically chosen by the farmers.
So far, Zameen farmers have decided to sink water wells, diversify and develop their business into other crops and improve their children’s education. With Fairtrade cotton there is no child labour or exploitation. There is dignity, democracy, equality and empowerment.
Organic farming is one solution which can help us navigate our way through climate change and also enable farmers to avoid spiralling energy costs and expensive and harmful chemicals. Last season, Zameen farmers harvested 374 tonnes of organic certified cotton lint.
Converting to organic is a long and difficult process – it requires a lot of training and a great deal of change for the farmers, including the composting of organic waste to fertilise the land and manual detection and removal of pests. Zameen supports the farmers with training programmes, helping the farmers add value to their crop through organic certification.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware about the negative impact pesticide use has on soil, water tables, food chains and the health of farmers and their families. Following technical training by Zameen, all the farmers produce their cotton without pesticides and chemical fertilisers.
This is an achievement close to the heart of the cooperative as it helps to combat the farmer suicide problem which has swept through the region, reportedly killing 26 farmers every day. There has never been a suicide amongst Zameen farmers, who now know that they can reduce costs and improve their health through eliminating pesticide and chemical use.
Cotton is a commodity well known for its environmental impact due to high water consumption, which can put pressure on the water supply of the local land and population. Zameen farmers plant their crop to coincide with the Indian monsoons and therefore have no need for irrigation. If the rains are late, the organic cotton plant is more resilient than its genetically modified, chemically grown counterparts and can naturally withstand drier seasons.
Zameen farmers not only get the Fairtrade premium, they also get a higher price than the Fairtrade minimum price and a commitment from Zameen to buy all their cotton. This stability, along with the technical and soft skill training they receive, enables them to take control of their own destinies – and take their communities with them.
But the real empowerment story lies behind Zameen’s ownership. Already major stakeholders in Zameen Organic, Zameen farmers increase their stake with every kilogram of cotton sold. Within the next few years, the farmers will be the majority stakeholders in Zameen; they will own their own company.
Speaking to the Consumer
Because Zameen is working directly with retailers and brands, this extraordinary impact belongs to each and every consumer. Every shirt makes a difference, and every swing-tag can tell the shopper how. With the capacity and quality to bring Fairtrade cotton into the mainstream the time to change the way we trade cotton is now.