Tuesday 15 January 2013

Part 2: Pesticides; Chapter 3: India and Leah

The pesticide problem is big and pervasive. How do we address it? Where do we start?

Clearly, a lot of people need help. We wish we could help everyone. But realistically, we can’t. At times we wish we were a big company with vast resources, so that we can do more. We’re just not.

Still, we want to help—it’s the right thing to do. But because of the constraints we face, we have to make a choice. 

We made ours last year: We decided to help the cotton farmers of India. Specifically, we’ve decided to source 100% of our organic cotton from India’s Morarka Organic which is backed by the Morarka Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the lives of Indian farmers through organic agriculture.

It wasn’t a decision that was made lightly. Indeed, we thought long and hard about it. One of the factors that tipped the scale was that India is home to the world’s largest cotton farming community—with around 17 million farmers. So we thought: India is the place where the positive impact of organic cotton farming can be felt most strongly.

The viewpoints of others have reinforced the feeling that we’ve made the right decision. One such viewpoint is that of Leah Borromeo. 

Leah is a UK-based filmmaker and journalist. We were introduced to her by Keith Tyrell, the Director of Pesticide Action Network UK. (PAN UK is the organisation that made the Benin video which we highlighted in our last post.)

Leah in action in India
A couple of years back, Leah made a short film called “Dirty White Gold.” In it, she brought to the fore India’s suicide crisis. We still remember her haunting narration: “Up to 7 people a day kill themselves by drinking the very pesticides that drove them to their desperate act.” Why?

Pesticides are expensive—they can make up 60% of the cotton production costs. But the farmers of India are willing to go heavily into debt to buy them, because they’ve been told that their crops can’t thrive without them. The reality is, however, this: crop protection is merely one of several success factors; there are other factors, such as weather, which is unpredictable; and the absence of even one can lead to crop failure. When that happens, the farmers can’t settle their debts. A painful decision is then made: some choose to go to jail; some choose to end their lives.

The cotton farmers of India need help. As far as we know, it’s the only country with an ongoing “farmer suicide epidemic.” Which is why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Today, Leah is on a mission—she wants to make ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry the norm, not the exception, by making the supply chain transparent. She is currently “crowdfunding” to enlarge the Dirty White Gold project. 

Leah has an important message for the world. Let’s support her and help her spread it.

You can support Leah financially at www.sponsume.com/project/cotton-film-dirty-white-gold. Any and every contribution helps.

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