We’ve been working hard for the last decade to improve the rights of workers and the lives of the people working within our supply chain. Cotton, a natural fibre, makes up a large proportion of our clothing range and in some regions cotton is grown on large-scale industrial farms. However, it is mostly grown on small farms in low-income countries, where knowledge of the most up to date and environmentally friendly farming practices is often limited.
That’s why, in 2013, we partnered with agricultural experts, CottonConnect, and the Self-Employed Women’s Association to create the ‘Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme’.
The programme is designed to introduce sustainable farming methods, improve cotton yields and increase the farmers’ income. Our three year pilot in Gujarat India trained 1,251 women smallholders resulting in an average profit increase of 247%, which many used to improve household welfare and to invest in education for their children. The results have exceeded all our expectations and that’s why over the next six years, an additional 10,000 female farmers will be taken through the programme, with the first seeds being sown by new trainees in April 2016.
Primark’s Sustainable Cotton Programme has also been featured in two reports on women in agriculture and addressing gender equality. The IFC’s (International Finance Corporation), part of the World Bank Group and CottonConnect’s reports can be found here.
My name is Kanchanben. I am 40 years old, and I have three daughters and a son.
I live in Gujurat, India. I have been a member of SEWA, and been farming cotton, for seven years now. My husband is ill, so I have been the sole breadwinner for several years.
I have ten acres of land, and I grow cotton on six of these. The main challenges I faced, before joining the CottonConnect programme, were around lack of water, and lack of money to purchase seeds.
The technical training and practical demonstrations have proved to be the most beneficial for me, and have resulted in higher yields after just one year. I have also reduced the amount of fertiliser I use by around 50 percent, and I have increased my knowledge of organic pesticides.
I invest any extra income I make into my children's education. One of my children is at the best school in the area, and another is first in her class. I'm very proud of them.
My name is Champaben Hirabhai Rathod. I have one son and four daughters.
Previously, we had little information about farming. After the CottonConnect training, we now have more information. We used to use chemical fertiliers but now we know about organic fertilisers and use compost instead. Reducing the amount we use has not affected the yield; in fact, cotton production has increased and so has the price. I am now better able to negotiate for a good price.
I keep my friends informed about what I am learning. Eighty percent of the farming, from sowing to harvesting, is done collectively by women in the village, so I encourage them to learn about these new farming techniques too.