The case for fairtrade and organic cotton makes itself .
In India, since 1997 there have been nearly 200,000 farmer suicides, according to some reports the rate is now at one suicide every 30 minutes.
The amjority of the suicides are in the notorious ‘big five’ states, India’s suicide belt of Maharashtra, Andhara Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh which account for approximately 66% of the total.
Of these, Maharashtra is the worst, having logged 41,404 suicides since 1997. It is claimed now that about ten farmers kill themselves every day in the state.
In 2008 a bundle of relief was handed out to farmers by government bodies, but that hardly seemed to dent the number of desperate people taking their own lives. The following year, 2009 was a drought year, as yet there are no figures for 2009, but it would seem obvious that they are going to be worse.
These figures arent unique to India, all over the developing world similar stories are told of farmers who take their own lives because of effective slavery to debt (caused often by the unscrupulous sales tactics of chemical salesmen). Also these farmers have no guaranteed income, if their crops fail, they get nothing, and if they have already spent a lot on chemicals, they get less than nothing… and if they have chosen a cash crop over any kind of subsistence farming, rather than a combination as favoured in an organic set up… then they have less than nothing and no food.
Farmers of all kinds of cash crops are trapped in cycles of debt and poverty which, combined with the hard nature of the practical work they are involved in, are too much for them. Desperate and helpless, they take the only way out they can think of.
In accredited organic and fairtrade systems, the farmers are liberated from the crushing debt cycles to which others are subject. They are supported through the development processes by NGOs and cotton companies who have an interest in ensuring the farmers are making a viable living, not completely dependent upon cash crops, and not destroying their land through the mono culture cultivation practises of conventional agriculture.
I dont need to make the case for fairtrade cotton, the farmer suicides alone make a compelling enough case. Rather those companies and consumers who continue to choose conventional cotton over organic and fairtrade need to make a case for their lethal choices.