Who We Are
Zameen Organic is a pioneering farmer-owned marketing company for Fairtrade, organic
and pesticide-free cotton.We work with marginalised farming communities in rural
India to improve livelihoods by increasing efficiencies, lowering input costs and
raising incomes through certification.
Zameen's ethos and objectives centre on farmer empowerment. Our farmers are the
largest shareholders in Zameen and therefore play a big part in shaping our policies
as well as benefitting from shareholder dividends. We also have plans for two farmers
to sit on our board and we work with Agriculture and Organic Farming Group (AOFG)
to train farmers and develop their organisational structure.
Zameen is also a supply chain management company, seeking out partnerships with
likeminded companies to more evenly distribute profits along the value chain so
that our farmers get a 'fairer' slice of the pie. We work with the textile industry
and fashion brands on special projects and to help raise social and environmental
standards across our supply chains, offering our customers high levels of transparency
Empowering farmers through ownership and training
Zameen believes in the 'trade, not aid' approach to rural development, and so do
our farmers who are investing their own capital into Zameen. For every ton of raw
cotton we buy from our farmers, we set aside an organisation development expense
of 1,100 rupees (approximately £15) to invest in Zameen.
By 'buying in' Zameen farmers have a vested interest in the company doing well.
The farmers rightly scrutinise our operations, making their opinions known and are
committed and engaged with the process due to their vested interest.
Agriculture and Organic Farming Group (AOFG) AOFG Partnership
Zameen has a close partnership with AOFG, a non-profit NGO. AOFG's aim is to facilitate
the development of independent, legally-registered farmer cluster associations that
are self managed and able to directly sell organic Fairtrade cotton to buyers to
strict international requirements. It focuses on building management teams, establishing
business infrastructure (offices and storage facilities) and increasing the technical
capacity of the organic farmers (to increase yields and profit potential).
Guaranteeing a transparent supply chain
By providing brands and farmers with direct access to each others' resources, Zameen
reduces supply chain complexities and creates a transparent process. Direct access
means minimising the supply chain to maximise benefits to farmers; cutting out middlemen
and moving up the value chain.
An example of this is Zameen's partnership with Alok Industries. We entered into
a three year contract with Alok, a FLO certified textile company and one of the
largest mills in Asia, to guarantee the ethical credentials of our supply chain.
All Zameen cotton is processed by Alok which enables us to track every product right
back to our farms. Brands can be confident that their products are made to the highest
ethical standards from start to finish, and they are able to inspect conditions
if they choose. Zameen's long term goal is to move up the value chain, integrating
manufacturing processes into our business model.
Why we setup
Cotton farmers in India often do not receive a 'fair' price; sometimes earning less
than the sustainable cost of production. Zameen works with small-holder and marginal
farmers who are struggling to maintain their businesses. Living outside of mainstream
development they are often highly vulnerable to loses beyond their control and have
little or no access to support.
Many of Zameen's farmers had been forced to borrow money at extortionate rates of
interest. Unable to repay their loans and support their families, suicide is seen
as the only dignified way out. In the Amravati district of Maharashtra 5,000 farmers
commit suicide every year.
By joining Zameen, marginalised farmers such as these have been able to escape spiralling
debt and binding contracts to moneylenders. There have been no suicides amongst
the 5,000 farmers we work with since we set up in 2006. Farmers have regained their
dignity through self determination and fair trading conditions.
In promoting organic cotton and freeing farmers from their dependency to expensive
agrichemicals, outgoing costs can be reduced by up to 50%. Infamously referred to
as dirty cotton, the commodity accounts for 16% of global insecticide use, far more
than any other crop despite occupying just 2.4% of the world's agricultural land.
The World Health Organisation estimates the cotton industry consumes $2 billion
worth of chemical pesticides annually, just under half of which it classifies as
Agrochemical can seriously damage our environment; they contaminate local water
supplies, degrade soil quality and harm wildlife. Farming communities also suffer
from direct exposure, with diseases including cancer linked to their use. Through
training farmers in organic farming practices, Zameen farmers have also seen dramatic
improvements in their health. Soil fertility is maintained and replenished through
green manure and crop rotation, preserving the natural resilience of the crops and
increasing and sustaining yields.
As a Fairtrade certified organisation, farmers are no longer
vulnerable to distorted and volatile market prices. Market prices do not simply
reflect supply and demand, they are other external forces such as agricultural subsidies
that depress market prices. Fairtrade guarantees a minimum price which covers sustainable
farming and living conditions. The Fairtrade premium, an additional sum, is also
earned by the farmer association, which is democratically invested in community
development projects. So far, Zameen farmers have invested in water wells, their
children's education and back into their businesses.
Fairtrade rules also prohibit child labour and encourage movement towards gender
equality. Better knowledge of international markets and organising into an association
has given Zameen farmers increased negotiating power and a stronger collective voice.
Where we work
Central India has the perfect tropical climate needed for growing cotton and has
been cultivated here for over 3,000 years. India is now the largest cotton exporter
in the world.
An estimated 10 million households in the country are engaged in cotton growing,
sustaining a huge $10-12 billion industry. As a developing economy, India needs
this income from exports and the small/medium enterprises the industry generates.
Zameen works with 5,000 cotton farmers in two states in South India, Maharashtra
and Andhra Pradesh.
Within Maharashtra, Zameen works with farmers in the Amravati district of the Vidarbha
region. This region, with its tropical climate is renowned for its farming, yet
despite the favourable conditions, 26 farmers reportedly commit suicide every day.
Like many countries during the 1950s food shortage, Indian farmers were encouraged
to use hi-tech methods to increase yields. Pesticides and insecticides were heavily
promoted in the area despite the fact they increased input costs by nearly 50%.
Farmers, dependent on these agrochemicals are drowning in debt and suffering from
near fallow fields.
The area, however, has a history of ecological awareness and was receptive to Zameen's
vision. There is a famous group near Amravati where followers of Mahatma Gandhi
practice organic farming inspired by his teachings.
Within Andhra Pradesh, Zameen works with farmers in the Adilabad region in both
the Wankidi district and in Kagaznagar. These are part of the tribal areas known
as adivasi. Farmers here have been isolated from mainstream development and communication
and have poor access to education. The farm land here is drier but farmers are enthusiastic
for organic farming and better prices.
The main players are of course the farmers themselves but there are many other players
in Team Zameen.
Gijs Spoor, Co Founder,Director.
Gijs is an agriculture engineer from Wageningen, Netherlands having 10 yrs experience
in the field of organic farming in India, Tanzania and Europe. Prior to India, he
worked in Europe with voluntary standardizing bodies like IFOAM, Fairtrade Labeling
Organization and Social Accountability International.
Satish Chukkapalli, Co Founder, Director.
Satish Chukkapalli is an MBA in International Marketing and HR, Satish has 16 years experience
in the field of International Marketing & Product Development of knitted garments.
Manufacturing and exporting environmentally friendly textiles to major fashion brands
across Europe and structuring the social sustainable textile supply chain from Field
to the brand is his core domain strengths.
Madhukar Sinha, Director.
Madhukar has experience in the social and agribusiness sector. He has worked with PRADAN, a leading Indian NGO for a World Bank sponsored program and also has experience in consulting domain while working with Weather Risk Management Services, an agribusiness management consulting firm. Madhukar is a post graduate from Indian Institute of Management and B.Tech in Agriculture. He represents Aavishkaar, the Social Venture Capital firm, on Zameen Board.