Concerned about the environment? Pollution? Your health? The planet?
Want to do something positive…but not sure where to start?
Suppose there was a simple way you could improve the lives of poor farmers in India…simply by choosing a stylish underwear? Too good to be true?
Well it IS true….with the Nukleus HEART range of organic cotton underwear, ethically sourced from two villages in one of the poorest parts of South India.
We thought you’d like to meet the people who grow the organic cotton used in our HEART range and hear how organic cotton has changed their lives.
Person to person. Farmer to fashion. Heart to heart.
Salem district in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is the real India. Real poverty. Real hardship. Real people.
In the villages of Vazapadi and Palayam, cotton farming families work on fields ploughed by cattle.
Women squat outside tiny thatched houses, watching pots of rice boiling on earth ‘cookers’.
Goats, cows, dogs and chickens range across dusty streets.
A simple life
Water comes from a bore well or a street tap where the women gather morning and evening to fetch water.
The electricity supply is uncertain, with frequent cuts or ‘load shedding’.
Some families have cell phones, but life continues at the slow pace it has for centuries.
Dependent of agriculture, weather and water
Life is dependent on agriculture, at the mercy of the sun, rain, soil and insects.
And, for many cotton farmers, on expensive chemical fertilisers, insecticides and genetically modified (GMO) cotton seeds. In some cases, 60% of farming costs are spent on GM seeds and chemicals. Costly toxic chemicals and uncertain harvests lead to debt…and hardship…
A good crop makes the difference between a child going to school…or not…
A girl getting married and having a family of her own….or not.
Medical care in the case of pregnancy or an accident…or not.
Being able to support vulnerable parents in old age…or not.
A family and community able to eat, participate in the community, and hold their heads up among others…or poverty, shame, hunger and hopelessness.
But with chemical cotton, there is no guarantee of a successful harvest…The only sure thing is the costly, toxic chemicals essential for the GM cotton seeds…forcing farmers to gamble their time, lives and hard-won cash in the hope of a good crop.
Generations work the land
Land is owned by small scale farmers, who farm a few acres which has been in the family for generations. The whole family works in sowing, weeding, maintaining and harvesting the crops. A lifestyle dependent on manual labour and commitment to the crops.
From chemical cotton to organic cotton
The farmers had been growing GM cotton from seeds developed by US agrochemical giant Monsanto. Heavily dependent on expensive and toxic chemical insecticides and fertilisers, their profits were small and erratic.
Until a visit, seven years ago from a group from local cotton and yarn producers, Super Spinning Mills Ltd, (SSML)who have an outreach and education programme to help famers in Salem to convert to organic cotton.
Farmers in rural India are poorly educated, and often not highly literate. Easy targets for advertisers hyping the benefits of everything from powdered milk to fairness creams.
A vast marketplace, hundreds of millions of largely uncritical consumers, rich pickings for the Transnational Corporations (TNCs).
From competing brands of shampoo to the mythical benefits of GM cotton seeds…and the expensive array of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, essential to encourage the GM cotton to grow.
It was to the sleepy, dusty village panchayat (council gathering) in Vazapadi that SSML came in 2007. Unlike the glossy TV ads from the likes of Monsanto, promoting GM cotton, their message was simpler, more down to earth.
Using traditional methods of agriculture, cultivating organic, non GM crops, especially cotton.
And farmers, like Murugesan, were interested. Following a presentation at the local village assembly on the benefits of organic farming, Murugesan was one of ten farmers who decided to make the transition to organic.
Time for a change
For one year no crops were sown on the farms. SSML gave the farmers an allowance and conducted seminars on organic farming, sustainability, traditional farming methods and natural pesticides.
“Everything changed in that year,” recalls Murugesan. “We felt more positive and tried many age-old techniques for crop cultivation and management. After four years of organic cotton farming and crop rotation we were able to afford a tractor.”
He’s been farming organically for six years. “We are very happy to farm organically because it automatically solves so many problems,” he explains. “Before I had to use a huge amount of pesticides and other chemicals on the crops. But the income from the extra yield was less than I spent on the chemicals! I used to have cattle, but had to sell half of them just to pay for the expensive chemicals.”
Six years on and a key member of the farmers’ association, Murugesan is proud of the decision he made at the village assembly. “I can’t read or write, but now I give advice to many people here, seminars in other villages and lectures in schools.”
He gazes at children playing in the compound as his wife feeds their youngest rice from a metal plate. “Best of all, I don’t have to worry about my health…or that of my wife and kids. Before, when a lady became pregnant, we used to send them away from the farm because we were afraid that the chemicals would harm the baby. Since we went organic the ladies don’t have to leave.”
Compost not chemicals
Another farmer in the next village, Ramanathan, now specialises in producing vermi-compost for other farmers. In his village the farmers work as a team. “We take turns to work in each others’ fields, we inspect and protect each others crops. Then we negotiate the crop price collectively, with an extra premium.
“We use this premium collectively. Not just to benefit individual farmers, but also contributing to schools, hospitals and clean water facilities.
“People here are full of a positive attitude and enjoy helping each other,” observes Ramanathan.
From cotton farmers in India to you…
Simple stories. Simple solutions. Organic cotton is an empowering solution which is good news for farmers, consumers and the environment.
This is the heart of the Heart range. By purchasing Heart underwear, you are directly supporting farmers like Murugesan and Ramanathan in the villages of Vazapadi and Palayam.
You are helping put food on the table and in bellies.
You are sending kids to school, proud and happy in clean uniforms, with school books and money for lunch.
You’re helping hard-working rural families put money aside for festivals, weddings, births, funerals and other expected and unexpected life events.
The gift of Life
You’re contributing to a more chemical free environment, helping sustain ecosystems, keeping water and soil free of toxic chemicals, building resilience and a better life for hard-working farmers.
You may never visit the villages of Vazapadi or Palayam. You may never speak with Murugesan or Ramanathan or share banana leaf thalis on the spotless floor of their family homes.
You may never attend a daughter’s wedding, the birth celebrations of a first child, or the sombre occasion of a parent’s funeral.
Your support, your Heart
But your support helps make all this possible. A global community of caring citizens whose actions speak louder than words.
You believe in helping and healing the planet. You believe in helping communities. You believe in a healthier alternative to chemical cotton.
Welcome to the Nukleus Heart collection
Thank you from Nukleus And “roomba nandri” (thank you) from Murugesan, Ramanathan, their families and all the other organic cotton farmers you’re helping have a better life.
IF YOU AGREE THAT ORGANIC COTTON IS BEST, PLEASE SHARE THIS MESSAGE OF HOPE ON SOCIAL MEDIA!