The Fairtrade cotton farmers of Odisha.
Odisha India. Here it is:
Here's what the internet ("Orissa Tourism") tells us about Odisha (formerly known as Orissa - we're not sure the Orissa Tourism people got the memo about the name change):
- Geographical area: 155,707 sq. km
- Total forest area: 58136 sq. km
- Coastline: 480km
- Capital: Bhubaneshwar
- Time: GMT + 5.30 hrs
- Climate: Typically tropical with three major seasons, Summer (March-June), Rainy (July -September), Winter (October-
- Avg. rainfall: 150cm (London is less than 60cm in case you were curious)
- Population: 37m (That's about the size of Argentina, or Spain. Not that much smaller than England (53m))
What the good people of Orissa Tourism don't mention, is that the GDP is approx £35bn, that's roughly £1000 per person. (In the UK it's about £24000, and for India as a whole it's about £3000.)
So, it's quite big and not very rich. By most people's definition poor in fact.
It also happens to be stunningly beautiful and well worth a visit should the opportunity present itself. This is however besides the point for today. It is where some of the cotton for our shirts is grown.
Arthur & Henry co-founder Ranga lives with his family in Bangalore and when not masterminding shirt production he spends his time travelling and visiting the people that grow and mill the cotton that ends up in our shirts. This is something he has done long before Arthur & Henry. He tells us that when the farming community that previously worked on what is now a nature reserve were re-housed on poor quality land outside the new "national park" they were struggling. With no irrigation to help farm their traditional crops, and with no farming culture of fertilisers and pesticides, organic cotton was a natural fit.
The farmers have really engaged with Fairtrade. It has brought a sense of solidarity to the village, and it works with them to get things beyond of agricultural assistance such as roads, drinking water and education.
Ranga has been visiting and working with several villages. Let's look at Karisalvanchi. This is a small village; the nearest healthcare is 18km away. The school a simple 10' x 10' room, 35 pupils and one teacher. Few facilities and no computer. Ranga said he would provide a computer, and such is the hunger for education that on the day of its arrival there was a queue around the building. This was no photo opportunity, but a genuine sign of the engagement with the wider Fairtrade mission. The Fairtrade premium in this village and many others is focused on general education and improved farming (via the technical input that comes with Fairtrade).