Organic cotton production as a solution for social and ecological issues (Helvetas Switzerland)
Conventional cotton farming harms the environment
Today cotton is cultivated on less than 3% of the world’s acreage. However, almost 25% of all the pesticides used in agriculture worldwide are used in cotton farming. The use of such enormous amounts of chemical substances in agriculture has various negative consequences, such as
- ground water pollution through leaching of pesticides
- soil pollution
- health hazard to farmers through contact with toxic agrochemicals
The heavy use of agrochemicals leads to diminished soil fertility, which in turn entails an increased use of expensive mineral fertilisers and pesticides and thus further reduces the farmers’ income. In order to pay for seeds and agrochemicals, many farmers have to take out loans.
The farmers’ situation is further aggravated by the present situation on the world market. With the US’s heavily subsidising its own cotton production, world market prices have been falling continuously. Farmers in poor countries make hardly any profit with their cotton.
Another problem is the large quantities of water required in cotton farming. The amount of water used to irrigate cotton is greater than that of all the households worldwide.
Organic cotton production has many advantages
They include the following:
- where no agrochemicals are used, the ground water is not polluted and farmers enjoy
a better health.
- organic cultivation increases soil fertility and allows a high yield of the ground during
- guaranteed sales of their cotton at an increased price allows the farmers to earn a
- living without having to take out loans, and their regular income helps to increase their
Consumers, too, benefit from organic cotton
Textiles from organic production contain no toxic substances. Purchasing them supports the producers, who are paid a fair price for their products. These textiles cost slightly more than conventionally produced products because reducing the amount of pesticides entails more labour in the fields, which is more expensive than chemicals.
In buying organic cotton textiles, not only the producers profit but also the consumers.