IDH launches reports to identify partnership opportunities to scale positive impact in the cotton sector in Maharashtra

IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative launched its reports – ‘Towards Doubling Cotton Farmer Incomes‘ and ‘Business Case for Gender Mainstreaming in Cotton’ on May 9, 2019 in Mumbai, India – sharing an assessment of the opportunities in sustainable agricultural practices in the cotton sector in Maharashtra.

The report launch was followed by panel discussions where the experts from organizations including Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), CottonConnect, Govt. of Maharashtra, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) discussed key recommendations within the report. The event was attended by over 75 delegates from 54 organizations – representing cotton implementation and supply chain partners (traders, valuators, ginners and spinners), service providers, funders, government programs, experts and research.

‘Towards Doubling Cotton Farmer Incomes’ report, prepared by knowledge partner Technoserve, outlines a strategy towards doubling the net household income of Indian farmers. Research is focused on the state of Maharashtra, which is the largest cotton growing state by the area but has the lowest yield domestically. However, the results can be applied to farmers across India, and even internationally to other developing cotton-growing nations. Among the set of recommendations, the report mentions High Density Planting and Lint Based Marketing as possible game-changing approaches in addressing farmer livelihoods.

Speaking on the report’s recommendation on Lint Based Marketing, Nawin Sona, IAS, Secretary to Govt. of Maharashtra and M.D. at Maharashtra State Cotton Growers’ Marketing Federation (MAHACOT) said, “The current scenario in the cotton supply chain is extremely complex, there is a loss of value to the farmers at various stages – and the report has brought out this information in a useful way. To implement a lint-based market system, we need to work back down to field. The farmers would have to be involved through FPOs and government intervention to aggregate at scale and even use the right quality of inputs and practices. The ginners have to be incentivized to generate good bales. Spinners are ready to pay for good quality. We will have to work towards making a demonstration that the lost value will be recovered under this model and will benefit the farmer.”

‘Business Case for Gender Mainstreaming in Cotton’, prepared by knowledge partner Sattva Consulting, looks to build an understanding of the gender division of roles and responsibilities on the farm, participation in decision-making and access to productive resources. The study examines both the economic contributions of women cultivators on the farm and the various barriers that limit their role in cultivation.

Commenting on women’s role in farming, Shraddha Joshi Sharma, IRS, Vice Chairman and MD, MAVIM (Maharashtra Women Development Cell under the Department of Women and Child Welfare) stated, “Many women are working on the field but they are not considered as farmers. They need to be recognized as farmers and the economic value of their work needs to be recognized as well – and this has come out well in the IDH reports. In our projects in Amravati, we have seen women learn very soon about farm inputs and interventions, which they have not only implement easily but also trained male and female farmers to adopt the same.”

Speaking to the recommendations posed by the report, Pramit Chanda, Country Director – India, IDH, concluded, “The report does give us tangible and implementable ways of bringing change in the cotton sector, by changing certain fundamentals in the status quo. If we find a way to implement these recommendations in Maharashtra, with existing and new partners, it will be a great opportunity to bring in this change”.