Hanging by a thread
While many talk about inequality, few put everything on the line to do something constructive about it. REMEI of Switzerland and Ikeuchi Organic are part of the few.
Their organic cotton is grown in Tanzania. Without specialised structures in place operating honourably, local producers would face the same exploitation risks prevalent in standard cotton trade. The reality is, only small teams of committed people stand in the way of this.
It starts with fair trade
Ikeuchi’s organic cotton is sourced through the REMEI Switzerland bioRe® project, who buy from the local producers. Interactions are happy and cooperative, and it starts with trading fairly.
REMEI offer farmers a fair price guarantee and a minimum buy period, often 5 years. Without this, farmers would be in a perpetually weak bargaining position. Environmental events such as drought and waves of pests can easily destroy harvests, making supply no guarantee. With REMEI, the producers’ good times are financially maximised, and there is support during the bad times, with a guaranteed light at the end of the tunnel.
The mission of REMEI’s bioRe®
REMEI protects the health, safety and livelihoods of cotton producers who may otherwise be vulnerable to physical or economic exploitation. Their bioRe® project:
- Ensures a safe, non-toxic work environment by prohibiting the use of chemical insecticides and herbicides, which are known to cause serious health conditions and birth defects;
- Ensures the organic cotton is purchased for a fair market price;
- Ensures workers receive a fair living wage with no exploitative practices or conditions;
- Protects communities from the adverse environmental impact of regular cotton agriculture (e.g. contaminant-free water supply).
- Provides agricultural and economic training to foster independence and expand the skillset of local economies. Crop rotation, natural plant pest repellants, farming techniques, management principles – everything needed to be successful.
Sleepwalking for water
We take it for granted: just go to the kitchen and get a glass of water. For farming communities in Tanzania, it’s not like that.
Small streams snake around the villages, but regular droughts and the torrid dry season parch them completely. When this happens, some villagers travel miles to bring back a few gallons of water for their household. They mount plastic containers to an ox cart, and begin their journey in the middle of the night in order to get back by day in time for field work. Sleep is a luxury when the water is low.
Wells require money to build, and money to maintain. A productive local economy is therefore essential to basic living needs. But this is difficult without having the basics in the first place – like water.
20 wells in 20 years
Ikeuchi Organic are doing what they can for organic cotton producers in Tanzania. They are committed to help resolve the water issue, by donating a portion of sale proceeds to community infrastructure. Currently, Ikeuchi are halfway to meeting their goal of installing 20 wells within 20 years. The water well projects continue to make a huge difference to lives half a world away from Japan.
The power of choice
In a free market, if something destructive, insidious or unfair exists, it is because there’s a demand for it. Somewhere along the line, it’s funded by purchases or attention. Organisations like REMEI really are the last line of defence for farming communities in developing countries. REMEI stands in a place that would otherwise be occupied by a less principled agent of the standard international cotton trade.
It’s a simple equation. The farmers depend on REMEI. But REMEI can only buy from the farmers if manufacturers like Ikeuchi Organic purchase through them. And Ikeuchi can only place orders to REMEI if end consumers are buying their products.
Supporting Ikeuchi Organic products directly supports the farming communities in Tanzania.