Altromercato Taking Indian Farmers Face To Face With The Market

Vittorio Leproux, Advisor of administration, altromercato, an organization of fair and supportive trade in Italy, says the effort is to bring farmers face to face with the market. Leproux is working as a Project Manager for the Fair Trade Supply Chain Development Project for India and Nepal.  The project  aims to increase markets for Fairtrade and organic cotton producers in India.  Leproux spoke to Make Cotton Sustainable on the various issues that the initiative is dealing with in the effort to build a fair trade supply chain.

What are the objectives of Fair Trade Supply Chain Development Project for India and Nepal and which places in India are you working in?

The Project’s goal is to link farmers and Fairtrade organisations so that organic cotton farmers can get exposure in their markets. There are many farmers in India who know about organic cotton and the benefits associated with it and are eager to switch to organic cotton cultivation. However, lack of opportunities and information stops them. We want to target these farmers, creating a community for them and helping them with training, tools and information about potential buyers. We want to connect cotton farmers, processors, apparel companies and Fairtrade marketing organisations with consumers. Currently, we are working in Maharashtra and Tirupur in Tamil Nadu which is a textile hub in India.

For how long have you been working and what all have you done so far?

We are working on this project for the last one year. So far we have concentrated on capacity building. We have identified the target groups and involved stakeholders and media. We have trained the trainers on organic cotton production and prepared training modules for the farmers. Over the next 2 years, we are planning to complete the training. We will also be mapping and identifying target SMEs in the textile sector in India. Thereafter we would work on supply chain management with the SMEs.

According to you, how are consumers responding to Fairtrade?

Consumers are the most important driving factor for the growth of ethical products.  As you can see here, everyone seems to be well informed about organic products and sustainability. That is a great thing. Last year, there was a high demand for organic products all over the world, despite recession, though there was a decrease in the demand and production of organic cotton. We want to have the same kind of demand for organic cotton in the coming years.  Consumers are well informed these days. However some of them still need to understand how clothes play a role in maintaining a sustainable environment.

What are the challenges you face in India?

Availability of good quality seeds is a big issue. Due to low quality seeds, productivity is very low. It is not difficult to convince farmers about the benefits of organic farming, but supply chains are very complicated. We need to work on making them traceable. Child labour, too, is rampant. And as I have mentioned before, farmers need to be brought face to face with the markets.

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