After my first days in the North of Delhi, I travelled to laid back Rayagada, a small city situated in Orissa; this rather rural state is situated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal and considered as the ‘Indian cotton belt’. Together with Sureel, Liaison Officer-India, we visited Agrocel, a cotton farmers’ group.
During the first day, we spent some time with the farmers to review the achievements of the past months. We discussed their challenges and their Fairtrade Premium projects (they received about INR 300,00 last year). We brought them some copies of the brochure ‘Fairtrade and you’ translated in Oriya, the language spoken in Orissa. Although the farmers understand Hindi, the national language, they were very happy to receive a Fairtrade document in their own language.
On the next day, some of the 600 farmers of Agrocel proudly showed us their latest Fairtrade Premium investment, a water pump. Since the cultivation of cotton requires a lot of water to irrigate the fields, they had to rent this equipment in the past, a cost that cut down their margins. They now have their own water pump, which gives them more flexibility and a better income; besides reducing their costs of production. They can also use the water pump for secondary crops, such as maize, paddy and vegetables. They told us that they have now doubled their income thanks to the water pump and the secondary crops. Agrocel farmers are very enthusiastic about their Premium projects and do not lack of ideas for the coming years: they are now planning to build bio-fertilizer facilities, latrines and a small solar electricity plant for the villages.
We couldn’t leave the village without paying our respects to Ganesha, the famous Hindu God currently being celebrated throughout India. In every village there is a temporary colorful altar, beautifully decorated with offerings, incense, and lit up at night with hundreds of neon lights. I even received for the occasion my first ‘tika’, the red dot on the forehead!
Xavier Huchet, Head of Asia in Fairtrade’s Producer Services and Relations Unit, recently visited tea, rice and cotton producers in India with with Liaison Officer Anup Singh. Fairtrade International has a network of over 50 Liaison Officers around the world who provide support and training to producers.