As you pull on your 100 percent Fairtrade Organic Co-op Fest t-shirt this year, you are unwittingly supporting fellow cooperative members in India. All of the cotton comes from Chetna Organics, a Fairtrade certified group of small-scale farmers. The supplier, Gallant International, worked closely with the cooperative and Rajlaskmi Cotton Mills to produce the shirts.
“I was searching for Fairtrade organic textile sources and met Mr. Rajat Jaipuria and the team at Rajlaskmi,” said Vikrant Giri, owner of Gallant International and Soul Space—a Fair Trade organic cotton clothing brand, and a soon-to-be launched athleisure brand. “The Rajlakshmi company is committed to the members of Chetna cooperative, buying almost 80 percent of the co-op’s cotton.”
Chetna was established in 2004 to improve the livelihoods of small-scale cotton farming families in the Indian states of Telangana, Maharashtra and Odisha. Their vision in creating the organization was to empower farmers to build an ethical, ecological supply chain that supports their families and communities.
The cooperative provides more than 15,000 farmer members with a wide variety of services, including technical and agricultural assistance, support for cooperative development, and policy and advocacy work for the rain-fed agriculture they rely on.
The farmer members of Chetna also own a 10 percent stake in Rajlaksmi, one of India’s first Fairtrade organic garment companies. This partnership provides important benefits to cooperative members, such as pre-financing for their cotton crop and community development projects.
“When I was starting my company, I wanted to find a way to create a business that’s not just good for me, but for people along every step of the way—a business where everyone is a winner,” Giri said.
“Just buying better cotton isn’t good enough, it’s about how you treat workers. It’s about transparency and benefits for people and the planet,” he added.
The cooperative became Fairtrade certified in 2005 and demand has grown along with the market for Fairtrade goods. Thanks to Fairtrade, farmers are now able to negotiate better prices and receive a premium of $52 per ton of cotton to be invested in community and business projects as the members see fit.
Past projects include building warehouses to store cotton so farmers don’t have to store it in their homes; support for buying non-GMO cotton and vegetable seeds, and other projects like a dhal mill, a nursery, farming equipment and more.
“Before Fairtrade we had to sell our cotton to local traders who didn’t give us good prices. Now we can market our cotton together and bargain in a much better way,” said Kuni Bhoi, a Chetna member in the village of Mading in a 2016 interview.
Looking to add a cooperative connection to your next promotion? Cotton t-shirts, polos and a variety of bags made from combed and ring-spun Fairtrade, organic cotton from Chetna Organic can be ordered through Gallant International. For more information on Fairtrade, visit www.fairtradeamerica.org.
Co-op Festival t-shirts are free to event attendees! Come see us on the National Mall October 6 and 7, 2018. Learn more at coopfestival.coop.