Recommendations to enhance the impact of Sustainability Standards on Smallholder cotton farmers in Maharashtra
Maharashtra is the second-largest producer of cotton in India, producing over 20% of the country’s cotton and also accounts for one of the largest numbers of smallholder farmers with over 14.7 million operational holdings.
However, there are concerns around environmental and social practices in the cotton value chain. This includes low yields (due to the predominantly rainfed nature of agriculture), soil and land degradation, and frequent pest infestation. Overuse of chemical fertilizers has led to concerns over and soil degradation in the State, as well as increasing concerns regarding farmer health. Several initiatives have been taken over the past few years to enhance sustainable practices in the cotton value chain and the state has taken rapid strides in identifying sustainable climate-resilient agriculture as an important paradigm for development.
In addition to these policies and programs, voluntary standards such as the Better Cotton Initiative, Fairtrade, and Organic Trade promote the cultivation and adoption of sustainable cotton. These standards work towards addressing social and environmental aspects in the supply chain. Studies also show that there are significant environmental benefits such as soil and water conservation that emanate out of adopting the practices promoted by these standards. Besides, it would catalyse assured sales and prudent pricing to farmers. Present trends in Maharashtra show early successes in the expansion of these standards. Scaling up the adoption of these standards statewide would require various actions to continue this momentum.
The Sustainability Standards Taskforce under the Water and Livelihood Security Workstream (Chaired by the Principal Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Government of Maharashtra) of the Maharashtra Water MSP of 2030 WRG comprises representatives from the public sector, industry, and civil society to deliver innovative solutions to improve water use efficiency and increase the income of the cotton farming communities; and supports partnerships with cotton supply chain actors for offtake arrangements and farm-level interventions. WWF India with financial support from IKEA has commissioned this study as part of this Taskforce.