Time to Make a Change


Research shows that organic agriculture is a good option for food security… and [is] more sustainable in the long term” United Nations Conference of Trade and Development (UNCTAD)


Time to Make A Change

Organic agriculture is a sustainable and environmentally friendly production system that offers developing countries a wide range of economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits. Around one in eight people in the world suffer from chronic hunger, 98% of whom live in developing countries. These countries are also home to 99% of the world’s cotton farmers – indicating a clear need for methods of cotton production that better promote food. Organic Agriculture depends on five capital assets for success (natural, social, human, physical and financial) and so contributes to and builds up stocks of these natural, social and economic resources over time thus often reducing many of the factors that lead to food insecurity.

Organic farming works in harmony with nature rather than against it. Instead of chemical inputs, organic cotton farmers use a range of natural techniques to maintain healthy soils and restrict pests, weeds and diseases. Central to this is the growth of a range of food crops alongside cotton – each contributing specific functions within the organic system whilst also promoting food security.

Contrary to common belief, organic cotton production is economically competitive with its conventional counterpart. A long-term study in India recently revealed that, despite lower average yields, net profits of organic cotton systems are in fact similar, or sometimes better, than those of conventional systems due to the significantly reduced input costs.

Below illustration shows the association between organic cotton and food security, due to the significantly reduced input costs.

  • AVAILABILITY: Organic Cotton Farmers grow an average of six food crops alongside cotton, which increases food availability.
  • STABILITY:  Higher crop diversity increases stability of food supplies if one crop fails, farmers have another to fall back on.
  • ACCESS: Access to food i,proves not only for farmers but also at local markets, as organic cotton farmers often sell their excess food produce locally.
  • UTILIZATION: Utilization improves as crops are no longer contaminated with harmful chemicals. The required growth of  leguminous crops also produce an important source of protein, which is often lacking

Benefits of growing Organic Cotton:

  • Cotton grown organically employs the ecological processes of nature to maintain, for the longer term, soil fertility, insects and microbes in balance, thereby reducing pest outbreaks, and encourages species biodiversity. A good understanding of ecosystems and farming techniques is necessary.
  • Cotton grown organically encourages the planting of food crops, often food staples and those in demand locally, as part of a farm system. Organic produce often has higher levels of dry weight and nutrition.
  • Cotton grown organically is more resilient to climatic stresses such as drought and floods. Organic crops are also thought to be ‘less thirsty’ (than crops dependent on NPK fertilizers and genetic engineered plants). Yields can be higher than conventional cropping when unfavorable weather situations occur, and input costs significantly less.
  • Cotton grown organically brings job satisfaction to people lives: it is inclusive and ‘female-friendly’.  Pesticide spraying for example is considered men’s work due to the hazards of use, and is a lonely occupation but organic is a community affair said to be favored by women. Organic is labor intensive (at times) which provides employment for rural communities.

Agro-ecological Impacts:

IMPACT

CONVENTIONAL

ORGANIC

Biodiversity Potential loss through high synthetic agrochemical use, monoculture and GM seed usage.

Increase of biodiversity due to less indiscriminate killing of bugs, varied crop production and use of local species as border crops.

Climate Change

Nitrogen synthetic fertilizers are a major contributor to increased N20 emissions, which are 300 times more potent than CO2 as greenhouse gas, which is ominous for global warming.

Conventional crops more likely to fail in extreme weather episodes.

Contribution to the mitigation of climate change by avoiding energy intensive mineral fertilizers and therefore

minimizing the emission of the green house gas N20 from fields and increase of soil organic matter contents.

Adaptation: Organic agriculture displays greater resistance to extreme climatic conditions.

Chemicals

Threat to ecological health and safety_ Four substances alone, namely endosulfan, diafenthiuron lambda- cyhalothrin and chlorpyrifos, are responsible for around 60% of the hazard posed to fish_ (ICAC)

No toxic and persistent chemicals permitted_ Equating also to a farmer being a more responsible neighbour’ e.g_ no chemical spray drift, leaching to groundwater, contamination of surface water, etc.

Energy Use

Rising cost of fossil fuels affecting costs of farm machinery, fertilizers, and other resource-intensive farming activities.

No use of fossil fuels in inputs (besides use of machinery). Indirect energy (and carbon) savings through no imported, synthetic agrichemical inputs_

Seed Diversity

Increasing dominance of genetically modified (GM) cotton seed can result in loss of local/native species of cotton. In addition to the agro-ecological concerns (such as reduced seed diversity. increase in secondary pests, and high water needs) GM seeds also place a financial burden on farmers.

Since GM seed is not permitted in organic production it is more likely that seeds will vary between countries. states_ growing areas, etc. It is also more likely that seeds will be saved and./or bred for specific growing conditions. More effort (including R&D) is required to keep non-GM, high performance seed available to farmers.

Soil

Monoculture and overuse of fertilizers deplete soils, in turn making them more dependent on artificial fertilizers.

Soil erosion (and loss of precious topsoil)
is a significant concern for many farmers_

Organic uses natural, local materials for composting / soil maintenance & conservation.

‘Low till’ organic reduces soil erosion and acts as a carbon sink_

Rotation and other crops help balance the nutrient demands of cotton_

Water

Water consumption: Growing of cotton on irrigated land consumes large amounts of water_ As well as causing local water shortages, inefficient irrigation can lead to environmental damage and in some cases catastrophes_ Agrochemicals damage the soil which turns into lower water retention.

Water contamination: Fertilisers and pesticides contaminate water and groundwater_ Runoff can contaminate neighbouring land.

Water consumption: Organic is more likely to be rain fed, although irrigation is also used_ Either way, organic is said to be less ‘thirsty’ than conventional cotton (in part due to the water holding capacity of organic soils); holding up to 30-50% more moisture than non organic.

Less water contamination – no chemicals equates to no ground or surface water contamination_ No excess chemicals leaching into groundwater, or contaminating surface water.

Benefits of growing organic cotton are countless and can bring huge impact to heal planet earth. It’s time for consumers to make a change and start asking for organic cotton made clothes. Consumer has an ultimate power to drive the market, which can go long way. Let’s show that we can wisely use consumer power and help small farming communities to feed their families and help our earth to keep feeding us naturally and organically. Let’s protect planet Earth for the generations to come.

Resources:
Agro-Ecological chart courtesy: http://farmhub.textileexchange.org
unctad.org
www.cottonedon.org

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