Conservation through Cotton: C&A Foundation and WWF India Join Forces
Partnership promotes biodiversity conservation and farmer livelihoods through organic cotton cultivation. C&A Foundation and WWF India launched a partnership to promote the cultivation of organic cotton in the Satpuda-Pench corridor of Central India, adjacent to the ecologically important Pench Tiger Reserve. Through their unique programme, the organisations combine organic agriculture with environmental conservation to create a win-win situation for both farmers and nature. The multi-year project will help 6000 farmers to obtain organic certification by the end of 2018
“Our vision for this partnership is to maintain the ecology of the Satpuda-Pench corridor while enhancing the livelihoods of cotton farmers, who play such a critical role in the apparel industry value chain,” said Anita Chester, head of sustainable raw materials for C&A Foundation. “By helping farmers go organic, we can minimise the degradation of soil and water quality that adversely affects wildlife habitats while also reducing costs and increasing yields for local cotton farmers.”
Central India is home to some of India’s largest intact forest tracts and iconic and endangered species including tigers, barasingha and gaur. It is also home to several tribal communities with diverse traditional livelihoods. In recent years, however, cotton production has become a primary source of income for nearly 1.6 million farmers in the area. Given the potential impacts of unsustainable cotton farming practices on the landscape and biodiversity of this ecologically important area, approaches that minimize negative impacts while ensuring farmer livelihoods are critical.
Farmer training, though in the prototype phase, has already commenced this season in the Satpuda-Pench corridor. Farmers will learn how to build the fertility of soil to increase yields, and make natural plant pesticides and compost. Farmers that complete the program will also be able to obtain organic certification, giving them better access to international organic cotton markets. The aim is to reduce financial burden on farmers, improving farmer livelihoods and creating incentives for farmers to practise sustainable agriculture and minimize the sale of land to other industries such as mining and commercial development.
“Sustainable agriculture plays an important role in conservation. It is an important piece of the puzzle,” said Dr. Sejal Worah, Program Director, WWF India. “When farmers manage their land sustainably, they can help preserve critical habitats by improving soil and water quality. This, in turn, enhances their agricultural productivity in the long term. In this case, promoting organic cotton in areas where agriculture and biodiversity interact could create a win-win scenario for farmers and wildlife.”
C&A Foundation and WWF are currently exploring the rollout of additional farmer training programs in areas with both high biodiversity or threatened species and high cotton production.
C&A Foundation is a private foundation affiliated with the global clothing retailer C&A. The Foundation works to transform fashion by helping to build an industry that respects the rights of workers, improve livelihoods and conserve the environment. We work together with key partners to achieve the best results and greatest long term impact. From farmers to factory workers, we help build strong and resilient communities in all the countries we touch.
WWF-India, which was set up as a National Organisation within the WWF network in 1969, is today India’s largest conservation organization in terms of people and geographical spread. WWF-India has, over the years, evolved into a dynamic organization with over 350 staff and a network spread across the country. WWF-India works through nearly 60 states, projects and field offices located in some of the remotest parts of the country.