Underscoring its ESG focus and commitment to sustainable business practices, Welspun India Limited, global leaders of home textiles, is supporting BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) and organic cotton (Non-GMO) as part of its WelKrishi program. In association with government and international organizations, the initiative is committed to educating and assisting the farmers associated with Welspun in sustainable agronomic know-how, post-harvest handling, market linkages, access to finance, and awareness on social issues. All administrative costs are borne by Welspun.
In the absence of sustainable farming practices, cotton production can, and has been, presenting significant environmental, social, and economic challenges. Cotton farming accounts for the second-highest consumption of water the world over, with 3,000 liters of water required to produce 1 kg of cotton. The industry is also the second-biggest polluter, with 20% of global water pollution caused by toxic wastewater discharge from textile dyeing. On the sociological front, over 60% of India’s cotton is produced by smallholder cotton farmers, who are among the poorest and most vulnerable.
Ms. Dipali Goenka, CEO & Jt MD, Welspun India Limited commented, “Sustainable cotton farming is the key to unlocking a radical transformation across the textile value chain in the interest of environmental conservation while lifting millions of people out of poverty by providing a more stable income and improved working conditions. This is precisely what we aim to achieve through our WelKrishi project. Our aim is to establish a robust, self-reliant farming community by promoting balanced sustainable growth and development and preserving the integrity of natural resources while enhancing the quality of life for everyone.”
Under the initiative, Welspun has set up farm field schools to train farmers in sustainable agronomic know-how and equip them with the necessary technological skills. Besides education and awareness-building, it is providing Non-GMO cotton seeds to organic farmers at a subsidized rate of 25-50%. The brand is also facilitating the associated farmers with access to AI-based technologies for pest management while promoting boom sprayers for effective and safe application of chemicals. It has also rolled out Sourcetrace, a complete farm management solution, designed to empower the farmers with visibility into the entire agriculture value chain from the field to the market. Besides alerting the users about issues with the crop, the app delivers expenditure information to the farmers while enabling seamless audits of the area under cultivation.
Further, the initiative saw the brand offering financial support to farmers to deploy water-saving farming equipment, contributing INR 8,000 per farmer for sprinkler and INR 20,000 per farmer for drip irrigation system. It has also constructed 11 farm ponds to harvest water and increase the groundwater level. As part of the post-harvesting marketing support, Welspun has procured 75,000 quintals of raw cotton directly from the project farmers at competitive and transparent rates, paying a 10% premium price to organic farmers.
The organization has also enabled kitchen gardening for 5,000 families to improve the health and livelihood of the community. As part of its social responsibility, Welspun has conducted school programs in 150 villages to drive awareness about child labour, child rights, and their well-being. Since 2017, the WelKrishi project has empowered over 15,000 farmers and 75,000 farm workers across more than 375 villages in Telangana, Maharashtra and Gujarat to sustainably produce more than 20,000 metric tons of cotton. The initiative has also had other knock-on effects including better soil health across 121,000+ acres of cultivated land bank on account of reduced use of pesticides while ensuring water conservation, improved biodiversity, and increased yields.