Impact Assessment

Agrocel Organic Cotton Farming Project in Gujarat, India, 2001-2004

    Agrocel Industries, Ltd. is a joint venture company of Shroff Group and Gujarat Agro Industries Corp. based in the Kutch district of Gujarat, India. The company works with more than 20,000 farmers across India through 18 service centers to provide agricultural inputs, technology support, market support, and training for both organic and conventional crops. In the course of these activities, Agrocel became concerned with the plight of smallholder cotton growers in the Kutch and Surendranagar districts of Gujarat, who were struggling for survival. In response, they conceived of a project to promote organic cotton cultivation in these areas, entered into relationships with Vericott U.K. and Traidcraft Exchange U.K to assist with manufacturing, processing, and marketing, and secured funding for the project from Shell Foundation U.K. The project┬┐Straight From the Cotton Fields┬┐aimed to address the problems of bankruptcy, rural-urban migration, deteriorating soil and water quality, crop vulnerability to pest attacks, and market access in an effort to create economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable livelihoods for smallholder cotton farmers. The objective of the project was to create more vertical supply chains to open the market for organic fair trade cotton. The implementing agencies aimed to develop a transparent and global supply chain where consumers are in a position to interact consistently with the producers on the ground.

    The document entitled 'Agri Impact Assessment Study for Organic Cotton Farmers of Kutch & Surendranagar' is an evaluation and review of the project commissioned by Agrocel and prepared by Dalal Mott MacDonald (DMM) consultancy after the initial project period ended in March 2004. The study concluded that farmers who participated in the project enjoyed a net gain of 14%-20% resulting from higher revenues (e.g. Agrocel purchased the produce at an 8% premium) and lower costs (e.g. farmers procured seed at cost from Agrocel).

    At the request of Agrocel, the document entitled 'Organic Cotton Farming in Kutch, Gujarat, India' was prepared by G.J. Jackson for external publication and in preparation for a comparative study of organic and non-organic cotton to be carried out by Agrocel scientists in 2005. It reviews the present status of cotton farming, compares general to organic cotton farming practices, and reviews the results of organic cotton farming as experienced by the project participants. Conventional wisdom has it that organic farming results in reduced yields, and perhaps quality, although net earnings approximate non-organic farming due to lower input costs and higher prices. But this is not the general pattern observed in Kutch, where organic farmers are experiencing yields that are similar to and sometimes in excess of those obtained with non-organic crops, and thus enjoying significant increases in net earnings. A scientific comparative to be carried out by Agrocel in 2005 should explain the discrepancy, and probable factors include low pest populations due to the dry climate of the area, the widespread use of Desi varieties of cotton, the attention paid to soil fertility, and improved farmer awareness of good crop husbandry. The author concludes that organic cotton is almost certainly impractical for most farmers in wetter and more highly irrigated parts of India where pest populations are high, but could probably be much more widely grown than at present.

    Methods for info gathering
    secondary research, field survey of program participants, interviews with managers and staff

    Summary of results
    Of the 59 participating farmers surveyed (out of 620 farmers recruited for the program), 90% reduced their indebtedness, 98% experienced less financial hardship, 58% saw a check in urban migration, and 100% attributed reduced incidences of illness in their families to the adoption of organic cultivation. The project also succeeded in establishing organic standards, securing organic certification from SKAL, registering the Agrocel brand, and launching an Agrocel website.