Fairtrade India: A Sartorial Affair

One death is a tragedy. One million is a statistic.

What comes to your mind when I say you have only 30 minutes left? What would you choose to do? Here is a story of what happens in India every 30 minutes. 

While you come up with your bucket list of things-to-do, a farmer in India dies every 30 minutes. Yes, you heard it right. Every 30 minutes a farmer in India commits suicide.

Last week I happened to visit Dibella factory which supports Fairtrade India. It is located in the tech-city of India, Bengaluru. Mr. Sreeranga Rajan, CEO of Dibella was patient enough to humbly show us around the factory and shared the story of his journey so far. He was always interested in starting his own venture with something to do with textile industries. Yet at the same time he was very empathetic towards the farmers plight in the country. He has spent days and nights with farmers trying to understand their problem and concern areas. It so happened couple of times that the farmer whom he was working with in the evening would be found dead in the morning. And it would turnout like three farmers die in a matter of a week. That is shocking right! And this became the moment of truth for him to act towards a new change that India needed. He collaborated with Fairtrade India to promote organic farming and working towards betterment of farmers’ livelihoods.

This factory is audited by Japanese standard, that means zero percentage of error in producing goods. The precision and mental agility required to create every inch of the cloth is high. And to increase the productivity of each employee engaged at the factory they followed an interesting concept through colorful charts which was displayed on the walls infront of every one’s workstation. It was a Japanese prayer that workers recited just before starting their day at work. The Japanese believe that prayer helps you to calm down and attain the peace of mind required to carry out the activities for the rest of the day. It was a simple prayer that helped mind and body work in sync with each other. Dibella is one of such brand that values every entity involved in the production cycle, right from sowing seeds, churning of cotton to preparing the textile. In every sense it is a pretty sartorial affair!

Fairtrade India is an intervention to bridge the widening gap that exists between textile industry retailers and farmers. The percentage of profits reaching the farmers is negligible. The need for ethical ways to promote farming and support for farmer requires attention that has been neglected for years now.

Fairtrade India promotes organic farming. The use of genetically modified (GM) seeds has seen to become more of a curse than a blessing. The use of more and more GM seeds has shown pests to become resistant of it and hence the use of more fertilizers which further leads to degrading the soil structure for farming. It’s a vicious lifecycle. Organic farming on the other hand is defined as –

“Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.”

On one hand organic farming is eco-friendly but the price of the product is usually higher compared to other cheaper alternatives available int he market.The biggest drawback in carrying out organic farming is the lack of Indian consumer market. Almost all of the organically produced goods are exported. The consumers in India are very price sensitive, hence organic products though eco-friendly are of less appeal to them. The market prefers to see price over value, but what it forgets is the cost, that is ultimately being borne by the farmer, who repays by giving up his life. It is the need of the hour that consumers wake up to the call to pay a little more for a better tomorrow rather pay less for a no tomorrow. You, me and every individual consumer has the power to act now.

Couple of months ago an event was organized by Fashion Revolution foundation that supports ethical fashion called #showmylabel. It was a great initiative to call out to the fashion brands to question them on how they sourced cotton for the clothes they made. It was an initiative that was started to support ethical way of farming –On 24 April 2013, 1133 people were killed and over 2500 were injured when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the worst ever industrial disaster in the fashion and textile industry – a way to show respect to the people who make our clothes.

Join the movement… be the change.