Next stop: Yavatmal

January 19, 2011

After a quick stop back in Mumbai after rural Gujarat I headed back out for the best part of my job – visiting the farmers behind Shop for Change Fair Trade products.  It’s Seth here, Shop for Change’s CEO, and for the last few days I’ve been writing from the field about my travels to visit farmers and interview them for a video project Shop for Change is working on with our friends from Sourcemap.  This time the destination was Yavatmal, Maharashtra.  That’s about three hours outside of Nagpur in the area that is known as Maharashtra’s cotton belt – and more recently as the suicide belt because of the number of farmers who have taken their own lives out of desperation.  This is one of the areas that Chetna Organic, a farmer organization supplying fair trade cotton for Shop for Change certified garments, does its fantastic work.

Early this morning we headed out to the cotton fields and met up with three farmers who told us about what it’s like to do what they do.  They talked about their work with Chetna Organic and the support that they’re provided by the organization.  One of them, Nilesh, described the entire process of cultivating cotton and the help that Chetna provides its farmer members through a variety of training programmes.  In addition to upholding fair trade principles, Chetna is fully committed to organic growing, and it works with its farmers to teach them how to maximize yields and reduce production costs without the use of pesticides or fertilizers.  Interestingly, Nilesh also talked about how being part of Chetna has helped bring farmers together so they work more collaboratively.  After our interviews in the fields, we went back to Nilesh’s small village, met his mom, and got a tour that we captured on film.  Tomorrow, off to Hyderabad to meet Ashutosh Deshpande, Chetna’s CEO.

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