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For Primark, Sustainable Cotton Farming Can Cut Input Costs

Primark’s Sustainable Cotton Programme continues to impact the lives of female farmers in India with its eco-friendly farming initiatives.

The programme’s third year results reported that women smallholders experienced an average profit increase of 247 percent due to the programme’s sustainable agriculture efforts. Female farmers used the additional income to invest in home improvements, child education and healthcare.

Established in 2013, Primark’s Sustainable Cotton Programme is a collaboration between the retailer, farming organization CottonConnect and the Self Employed Women’s Assoication (SEWA). Over the past four years, 1,251 farmers have participated in the program, which trains women smallholders in greener farming processes, including furrow watering and organic pesticide application. Last year, Primark announced that the program will be extended until 2019 and the retailer aims to reach an additional 10,000 farmers in the next three years.

The program’s third year results demonstrated how sustainable agriculture methods contributed to female farmers’ profits and the wellbeing of their communities. By minimizing chemical fertilizer use, purchasing seeds collectively with other farmers and reducing additional labor costs, female farmers achieved a reduction of input costs by 19.2%. Adopting additional sustainable farming methods, including soil testing and micro irrigation systems, also resulted in a 40 percent reduction in harmful pesticide use and a 10 percent decrease in water use. Incorporating the program’s greener harvesting methods helped female farmers boost their individual incomes and minimize the impact of pollution in their villages.

Women currently play a crucial role in India’s cotton cultivation. As the world’s second largest producer of cotton, the nation heavily relies on the work of female farmers. According to the International Trade Centre, women account for 90 percent of cotton hand-picking and 70 percent of cotton planting. Despite the importance of female cotton farmers, women in rural India earn an average income that is only 78 percent of men’s. Primark’s Sustainable Cotton Programme is working to remedy this inequality with its ongoing support and education in eco-friendly farming.

“We’ve seen what’s possible with a small group of just over 1,000 farmers, but it’s clear that this approach holds great potential,” CottonConnect CEO Alison Ward said. “We’re looking forward to seeing the impact of the programme on our next intake of female smallholders.”

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