This project has taken something of a back seat over the last year or so – I simply havent had the space and ability to make any progress with it. But despite that, a number of new contacts have come forward, which makes the prospect of taking the cotton project forward seem real again.
I suppose I’m writing about it here, in order to kind of be held accountable over it 🙂 There is the constant and very real danger that other work (there’s plenty of it) and interests (plenty of them too) will crowd out this project, and that is something I dont want to happen.
My current thinking is that I want to form some kind of not-for-profit enterprise, or perhaps charitable trust here in the UK, which would act as a trading and training vehicle for the cotton farmers in Cambodia.
On previous trips I had identified specific people and places to work with, but on reflection they may not be the best choices – I want to continue with a measured approach, importantly I want to find a location and a community where this project will work. There needs to be suitable growing conditions, suitable level of community organisation, and reasonable communications.
The plan in terms of the ‘on-the-ground’ part of it, is that the commuity will grow the cotton, and then process and spin it by hand. I am confident of being able to source natural dyes and there seems to be a growing level of expertise in the craft sector which should make taking the cotton cloth forward a relatively easy task compared to some other parts of the chain.
I note with great interest that Charlie Davies is doing something very similar in Burkina now, which is fantastic, and I am not just a bit jealous!! She’s a good person though, so I’m sure she’ll help me out with relevant advice and so on.
The idea is to keep it deliberately low tech, yes the output will be limited and we’ll have to work hard on the quality control, but the low tech approach has much to commend it in terms of enabling home-based workers, minimising footprint etc, it also adds value to the end product.
The point of establishing something here is that it will bridge the trading gap that is all too evident in other projects of a similar kind – it will also help bring others into the vision for the project, and serve as a example that others can use to develop their own projects.
I note that supply of organic cotton is now outstripping demand – although whether that will remain the case is in question I suppose. But it certainly changes the playing field, and means that once again we’re better off looking for the niche than trying to compete with factory farmers producing huge acres of crop.
Small scale production also allows the encouragement of permaculture principles, and doesnt stop subsitence farming alongside the cotton cash crop. Intercropping with fast growing bamboo, and perhaps even other fibres like jute, ramie and hemp are also a possibility, again depending upon location.
So please – friends, readers, relatives, nag me on this one, because I need to devote some serious time to this project over the next few months.
By the way – funding it all shouldnt be a problem, I’ve just had an email, quite out of the blue, telling me I’ve inherited four million, six hundred thousand pounds, all I need to do to get my suprise funds is email my bank details to a friendly solicitor (why does he have a gmail address?)