Is this undeveloped ground ripe for transformation into a cotton farm?
I sent out an email tonight about the cotton project I’m working on, given that I’m back off to Phnom Penh again in a couple of weeks, I thought I should try and update people.
For those of you who didnt get the email (my fault for certain!) I’ve pasted most of it below – happy reading.
First a quick catch up: About three years ago I was prompted to begin working on setting up a fair trade garment business in Cambodia. The vision for this enterprise was to enrich and empower impoverished people, make great clothes and make an impact socially and environmentally. This is part of what I see as taking the gospel – the good news of the Kingdom of God – to the many people who are least reached in the world. The bible tells us that the kingdom of God is justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, there is no getting away from the fact that this affects bodies as well as souls!
Cambodia like many countries has many who live in dire poverty, and that has been made unusually bad in some situations, by the dreadful civil war which wiped out huge numbers of Khmer people, and set the development of the country back many years.
Anyway, the garment enterprise hit a number of obstacles. One of the key factors was that upon investigation, it transpired that none of the ‘ethical’ manufacturers in Phnom Penh that I met, were using materials which were totally ethically sourced. Instead they were relying on imports of poor quality materials, which had been produced in questionable conditions. In short – there were severe supply chain issues.
On investigating this further – I realised that the best way to take this project forward would be to start from the ground up, and work on developing the raw materials. In particular I could see the amazing potential offered by organic cotton production in Cambodia. I was inspired by what I saw of other organic cotton projects in other countries.
One particularly successful project was set up in India – the aim of that project was to alleviate the plight of small holder cotton farmers who were struggling for survival. The project’s stated aims were: “to address the problems of bankruptcy, rural-urban migration, deteriorating soil and water quality, crop vulnerability to pest attacks, and market access in an effort to create economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable livelihoods for smallholder cotton farmers. The objective of the project was to create more vertical supply chains to open the market for organic fair trade cotton.”
This project has gone on to be successful in every way – an evaluation survey of some of the small holders later found that: “90% reduced their indebtedness, 98% experienced less financial hardship, 58% saw a check in urban migration, and 100% attributed reduced incidences of illness in their families to the adoption of organic cultivation.”
My aim is now to establish a project with similar redemptive qualities in Cambodia.
Last year I visited Cambodia again with some friends who were able to advise me on different areas of production. Together we visited potential sites for growing cotton, and made a number of contacts who were interested in helping with the project in different ways.
In particular we were taken to a village where some land is available for the start of such a project – it is peopled by former Khmer rouge soldiers. The village also has a school set up by an NGO to teach agricultural techniques. In some respects it seems like an ideal place to start the project.
This summer along with the rest of my family I visited Phnom Penh for a few days, and during this visit I was introduced to someone who had previously grown cotton successfully just outside of Phnom Penh.
At the beginning of November I will return again to Cambodia – this time for two weeks, to try and see if I can marry the diverse elements which currently exist together, and try and get some cotton growing. Of course this is only the first hurdle. Although there exists a huge market for Organic cotton, because there is currently none grown in Cambodia, finding someone either to buy the raw cotton, or to process it locally still remains a challenge. However this does not seem insurmountable – the possibility of seeing real transformation at a community level is getting closer!
I would like to ask you to pray for the project over the next few weeks – this is likely to be a crucial time.
After last year’s trip I ended up wasting a lot of time by being distracted – I don’t want to waste time like that again.
My hope is that through this project, and others like it, we can make a significant impact on the lives of people in desperately needy communities. Moreover, as Cambodia is heavily dependent on garment production for its export economy, and currently it imports all its raw materials – we could make a significant impact on the economy of the nation should organic cotton production take hold in Cambodia!
I’m some way out of my teens, but I still want to see the world changed – I hope you do too.
If you are willing to pray for this project, these are some points I’d like to ask for prayer on:1) That the links in the chain would fall into place – that none of those important links would be missing!
2) That funding would come through in order to pay for the materials and so on which are necessary if we are to get this thing started.
3) God’s grace for both my family and me, as we are apart again.
4) Wisdom and discernment as I deal with lots of different people – all with different motivations.
If you know of someone who might be interested in being involved in this, or another organic cotton project, then please direct them to me, a basic description of the project is to be found on the organic cotton project page of this site.
If you have any questions – about any aspect of this project, I’d be delighted to try and answer them.