Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Top 20 Countdown # 5: First 100% Organic & Fair Trade Clothing Line

Three of our projects were part of the world’s first clothing line certified as fair trade organic from crop to consumer: Fair Trade Zone, the cotton gin, and our cotton farmers.  

Certifying the entire chain was really important because:
  1. Fair trade ensures workers are paid fair wages and have good working conditions but other "fair trade" garments on the market only certify conditions for farmers and sewers, leaving workers at the cotton gin, spinners, knitters and dyers to be paid a low wage and treated poorly...except ours, which guaranteed the rights of all workers involved in making your clothing.

  2. A garment can have "organic" on the label as long as the cotton was grown organically, even if it was processed with toxic chemicals and dyes.  Our garments were certified organic every step of the way, ensuring that only accepted eco-friendly dying and finishing processes were used. 

Organic cotton is good for our farmers:  In the 1970s over a million acres of cotton were grown in Nicaragua.   

The conditions for growing cotton here are excellent, but monocropping adjacent fields of cotton led to a boll weevil infestation.  Also, when land is planted in cotton year after year with no crop rotation, the soil is depleted of its nutrients as well as its ability to retain water.   By the 1990s, eighty percent less cotton was grown in Nicaragua than had been grown in the 70s, and now our organic farmers are the only cotton growers in the country.

Farmers growing organic cotton in small fields and rotating their crops with nitrogen-enriched crops can keep their land healthy and the water retention of the land high.  When cotton is grown in small fields it can be monitored by hand, which reduces the number of boll weevils in their fields.  It is because of boll weevils that cotton worldwide is the second most pesticide-laden crop. Cotton makes up only 3% of the world’s crops but uses 25% of the pesticides.

What does this mean for farmers and workers who deal with the conventional cotton?  Cancerous lesions, tumors and birth defects for the cotton farmers, workers and those living in cotton-growing regions.

Organic cotton is not only healthier for the land and for the growers, it also makes more money per pound for the farmers than conventional…thereby adding value to the farmers hard, back-breaking work.  BUT it can only be exported if it is ginned and baled…which is why we run a cotton gin.

Organic cotton is good for those who handle the cotton:  Can you imagine working where all the cotton that was sprayed with heavy pesticides is filling the air, even if you wore masks?  Not very healthy.

Organic cotton is good for our children:  Conventional cotton seed that is left from cotton fiber production gets into our food chain. Chemically laden seeds are pressed into oil and 8 pounds of the leftover cake are fed to each dairy cow in the U. S. every day.  Leftover twigs and trash are made into bedding for dairy cows.  Cottonseed oil and cakes are in many junk foods.  Cotton fibers that cannot be spun into yarn for cloth are used in the padding of baby’s diapers.

Organic cotton is good for women:  besides the chemicals in conventional dairy products, from which many women get their daily calcium intake, chemically tainted cotton fibers are not only in baby’s diapers but also in many tampons.

Some people think organic clothing is just a silly thing or a rip off…but when you consider all the benefits for the health of your babies, your own health, the health of the people handling the cotton, and the small farmers…all these benefits come from buying organic clothing and it does not seem silly at all.

Future projects:  
  • Increase our organic cotton production to 1.5 million pounds per year by 2017...awaiting $325/acre funding to give farmers the credit they need to plant
  • Purchase a de-linter to enable us to make our cotton process more sustainable: we would press our leftover cotton seed into oil to be used in making bio-diesel and would make the leftover cake into organic cattle feed for sale...awaiting funding

Counting down to #GivingTuesday on December 2nd, we’re highlighting the CDCA’s accomplishments over our 20 years in Nicaragua. Follow our countdown in this blog, on Facebook and TwitterHelp us keep doing more by giving $20. Our goal is to raise $20,000.