Female farmers working with Primark’s sustainable cotton programme recorded a 247% increase in profits in 2016.
The programme, set up in 2013, aims to support women from traditionally male-dominated farming communities in the Indian province of Gujarat to introduce sustainable farming methods, improve cotton yields and increase incomes, in partnership with agricultural experts CottonConnect and the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).
Costs inputs also dropped by 19.2% last year as farmers reduced chemical pesticide and fertiliser usage and bought seeds collectively with other farmers.
In total, 1,251 farmers participated in the first three years of the programme and in 2016 Primark announced that the programme would be extended to reach a further 10,000 farmers over a six-year period.
In India, the world’s second-largest producer of cotton, women play a crucial role in the plant’s cultivation. Despite figures from the International Trade Centre showing that women account for 70% of the cotton planting and 90% of the hand-picking in India, the average income for women in rural India is just 78% of men’s.
Katharine Stewart, ethical trade and environmental sustainability director at Primark, said: “Primark’s long-term ambition is to ensure all the cotton in our supply chain is sourced sustainably. We approached SEWA and CottonConnect because we wanted to develop a project that would give us invaluable insight into producing sustainable cotton and make a meaningful difference for cotton farmers in India.
“We knew that to have maximum impact, the programme needed to be delivered by experts on the ground with local knowledge and expertise to engage with smallholders and their families. In doing so it has shown that sustainable farming methods are good for the environment and farmers’ incomes. But more than that, this programme has improved lives. It has helped to empower these women and narrow the gender inequality gap in their communities. We’re looking forward to reaching even more women in the coming years.”