Reflections of a city girl

February 23, 2011


After one member of our film crew fell victim to the food from a dhaba on the Mumbai Ahmedabad Highway I asked my friend Arti if she could fill in last minute (“Hi Arti, it’s Seth.  How’d you like to fly to Nagpur this afternoon?”).  After a week translating interviews with Shop for Change certified cotton farmers from Chetna Organic I asked Arti to reflect on her experience.  Here’s what she said…

When Seth asked if I could fill in as a translator for a film Shop for Change was making in rural India, I jumped at the idea. Having lived in the city, I didn’t know much about organic farming and fair trade and hence thought it would be a great learning opportunity. We visited cotton farmers in Yavatmal, Maharashtra and Bhawanipatna, Orissa who were simple people and very hospitable.  It reminded me of the simplicity of village life, but also the fact that while farming families have some resources, farming on its own – at least in the conventional way – isn’t working as a sole source of income.  Due to the lack of jobs and development in the rural areas, many are forced come to the cities to earn for want of a better life.

It was interesting to gain an insight into the day to day life of the farmers as well as knowing where the cotton in Shop for Change certified textiles comes from.  It has brought about awareness in me as to how each of our shopping decisions impacts others’ lives. The farmers rightly pointed out that although we are paying a little extra for fair trade and organic products, the money we spend would be put back to the development of the communities at large. I also realised there is a total disconnect between people in the cities and the rural areas. For example, when I asked the farmers why fair trade organic cotton should be a bit more expensive, the answer was that products made from fair trade organic cotton were the best decision for farmers and the environment. However, I pointed out to them that due to our busy lives in the city, most people don’t yet stop to think about the farmers and the environment.  It’s only if a garment looks good that matters!!  Hopefully this film project will help the farmers and Shop for Change bridge this disconnect so those of us in the city recognize that the products we choose do have an impact in the rural areas.

All in all it was a great learning experience for me where I got to see parts of India I would generally not have gone to and to see the passion and enthusiasm of people who are trying to make a change!

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