Diary of a field trip to Better Cotton farmers in India

Janet Mensink from Solidaridad Network went to India with Adidas to visit Better Cotton farmers and attended a Better Cotton Initiative meeting in Dubai. She kept a diary of the activities of this trip.

11 November 2011 – Arrival Bangalore

Meeting with Naveen and Ravindra from Deshpande. Solidaridad is working with this NGO in the state of Karnataka on a pre-Better Cotton Initiave project with 1,200 small holder farmers, funded by Ford Foundation. The progress sofar is very good and Deshpande is very enthusiastic. We’re discussing plans for next season, an official BCI project with substantial scale. Jackpot is willing to invest. Deshpande themselves can contribute. We will check with Ford Foundation about their plans. Together we can really make this a nice project of substantial scale and impact.

12 November 2011 -Team meeting Solidaridad Cotton Solutions Network

Team meeting Solidaridad Cotton Solutions Network: Nagaraj, Praveen, Dinesh, Selvam, Poonam. Team leader Deboleena is on maternity leave, got her baby on the 10th. In the mean time Nagaraj is taking over coordination with me as fall back. What a team this is!! I am so proud!! Coming from a loose set up last year, they have really formed a group. We’re discussing the progress, challenges ahead in making an action plan. There is huge interest in the BCI projects: several visitors from brands, retailers and investors in the coming months. Moreover the team is in high demand to exchange their knowledge and experience with other BCI projects in as well as outside India.

13 November 2011 – Field visit with Adidas team

Field visit, together with Adidas team: We’re leaving early morning for a long drive to Dharmapoori, Tamil Nadu. Here we have one of Solidaridad’s BCI projects: farmer groups connected to Super Spinning Mills. During the bus ride we have an interactive session about cotton in India and more specifically BCI. A warm welcome by the farmers (around 80 – 4 learning groups) and Super Spinning Mills field staff (around 8) and we are all seated in the shade. Facilitated by Selvam (who can do this like no-one else): farmers enthusiastically explain about their activities and are proud to show their achievements. There is a lively discussion between the farmers, Solidaridad and Adidas. The farmers show us their fields, explain about making natural fertiliser and pesticides (with neem) and show how contamination free cotton picking is done.

The lady farmer “Indira Ghandi” takes us to her adjacent house and gives an insight in her daily life. She also asks about agriculture in Europe. Her 2 beautiful girls mingle in the discussion and are proud to tell about their results at school. It’s a very special feeling to have this close interaction, which is shared by both the farmers as well as the visitors. After thanking and warmly saying goodbye we take the bus for a long ride back to Bangalore.

14 November 2011 – Presenting Solidaridad at the Adidas office

Presentation of Solidaridad at Adidas office: global and local team. Introduction about Solidaridad, our Fashion program and more specifically the Better Cotton Initiative. As expected. Well received I think. I also informed Adidas about our work in China with BCI and projects in wet processing, taking care of cleaner production in dyeing houses.
Meeting with IFC (World Bank) staff and Ecom on BCI in Tajikistan. IFC staff have visited one of our projects and are highly impressed. They like to subcontract Solidaridad Cotton Solutions Network to help them set up BCI in this region.
Departure for Dubai for BCI membership meeting.

15 November – Dubai BCI membership meeting

Discussion with around fifty representatives from all BCI stakeholders on topics related to the strategic review 2012. The first pilot phase of BCI 2009-2012 will result in an evaluation and possibly modifications to the system. The workshop today is part of the review. We had very interesting discussions on issues like scale versus impact, compliance versus improvement and income generation for BCI organisation as well as funds for the BCI farm projects. The review may lead to drastic changes in the system!

Solidaridad global cotton team dinner with Fatima from Brazil, Nagaraj India, Alice China, Janet International Programme Coordinator.

Nice to get each other to know better and exchange experience and knowledge!