To access the small cotton plots, you have to make your way through the yellow lentil bushes, which can be up to 2 metres high. The soil is red, the dry grasses crack under the soles and bunches of insects twirl around. In this remote region of Odisha, an Indian state southwest of Calcutta, the terrain is rugged with the Niyamgiri Hills, whose subsoil is known to contain bauxite, coal, iron and manganese.
Akshaya Kumar Sahu says that the surrounding peaks, with their bluish profile, are “the kingdom of leopards and wild elephants”. The man, in his forties, has been running a food security programme for almost four years now, involving 500 small landowners and about 50 landless peasants. He is helping them improve their standard of living and reduce their impact on the environment by getting them into the fair trade cotton sector.
A system that protects farmers from selling at a loss, thanks to the respect of the minimum price guaranteed by the State. And which makes it possible to obtain a development premium financed by the textile brands in the form of licence fees, on condition that the farmers form a cooperative and invest this money in collective projects (microcredit, irrigation, housing, education, health…). On condition, also, that they do not grow GMOs, that they ban child labour and that they respect all the conventions of the International Labour Organization concerning health and safety at work.