Chetna Organic is a unique 360° development intervention for smallholder (&tribal) farmer families primarily dependent on rainfed agriculture. Chetna was established with the primary aim of enhancing their livelihood options through making their farming systems more profitable and sustainable. Chetna focus states include Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha and with specific technical services extended to other states.
The Chetna Organic & Fair Trade Cotton Intervention Program
started in 2004 as a composite pilot on Organic / Non-Pesticide Management (NPM) & Fair-trade supply chain development,in response to the agrarian crisis in India. The intent was to improve livelihood options of smallholder farmers by making their farm systems more sustainable, profitable and creating access to ethical and fair-trade markets in cotton.
Not with an intent of indulging in charity but venture philanthropy so as to empower farmers by engaging them to build an ethical supply chain for cotton supported by international collaboration through its triple bottom-line objectives, which believes in principles of ecological (viz. Organic) and Social (viz. Fair Trade) sustainability and is self-sustainable enterprise through making nominal, non-exploitative profits (self supporting) for the stakeholders, the farms. Towards this goal, the program spawned the twin farmer-owned organizations:
Chetna Organic Farmers Association (COFA), a farmer owned not-for-profit that engages in technical and social extension, capacity building, institution building support to farmers and farmer co-operatives, promotion of CSR investment in farmer communities and policy and advocacy work on rain-fed agriculture and related issues.
Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company Ltd (COAPCL) is a farmer owned finance and market linkage commodity-trading company that works on developing sustainable market linkages for farmer’s produce in national and international markets.
Established with the aim of addressing the poverty related distress of small and marginal cotton farmers in the region, Chetna Organic today runs a multi-faceted program that aims to create a 360 degree support intervention around the farmer community so as to empower them to take better action on their own decisions. Chetna Organic works with over 25,000 farmers spread across Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa. The emphasis at Chetna Organic has been on farmer empowerment and promotion of entrepreneurship amongst the community and hence these farmers have been federated into 13 district level co-operatives (with more than 836 Self Help Groups (SHGs), working under the co-operatives) who front all local level initiatives of their member farmers such as capacity building through Chetna Organic support, local government linkages, establishment of community owned infrastructure etc.
Some key activities implemented by Chetna Organic at the co-operative level include promotion of organic farming, participative research on best package of practice for different agro-climatic conditions, seed trials to improve productivity and marketability of farmer’s produce, seed multiplication programs to reduce input dependency, promotion of kitchen gardening to address food security issues, promotion of community owned infrastructure in a bid to promote local level entrepreneurship, promotion of community water sheds to address issues of water and education programs as a tool for capacity building and ensuring access to education.
Simultaneously, at an international level, Chetna Organic works closely with Solidaridad (Netherlands), Made-By (Netherlands and UK), Max Havelaar, Fair Trade Foundation, Fair Trade USA, Jackpot (Denmark), Japan-India Co-operation Agency (JICA), Fellisimo ,Toyoshima (Japan), Shop For Change and with the support of its donors Solidaridad, ICCO and Rabo Bank and the Ford Foundation towards promoting markets for organic and fair trade cotton garments in the developed countries, develop supply chain partnerships to address such market demand (Spinning mills, CMT Units, dying units etc) and promote organic and fair trade farm systems in India..
The Forum For Integrated Development (FFID) is a professional not-for-profit organization working towards reducing rural distress, empowering and strengthening the rural communities, especially small and marginal farmers and disadvantaged communities from rainfed regions, in coping with adverse situations and attaining self sufficiency.FFID lays special emphasis in developing, promoting and popularizing alternative models in agriculture, agro-ecology and livelihood promotion.
FFID provides guardianship support to both COFA and COAPCL to evolve into professional and well-established farmers’ support organizations.
Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills Pvt. Ltd (RCML) - India’s one & only 100% Organic and Fairtrade garmenting company, has been a longstanding partner and the strongest supporter for Chetna Organic since inception. Initially, RCML purchased almost all cotton produced by the Chetna and continues to be one of the most consistent and substantial buyer. In 2008, Chetna Organic through its cooperatives picked up a 10% stake in RCML. This relationship provides many additional benefits including the creation of contracts from the beginning of the season to secure bank loans for farmers, access to pre-finance of over 50 percent of the cotton harvest, and importantly active participation of brands in community development projects such as supporting schools, vocational training centers, eco-centers, women enterprises (incl. tailoring units), creating revolving funds, etc. in remote villages – all as a result of the integrity demonstrated in the Chetna supply chain and further complimenting the Fairtrade premiums.