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ACRE Unique Initiative for Cotton farmers of India

The Alliance of Cotton & Textile Stakeholders on Regenerative Agriculture (ACRE) has been established by Solidaridad Asia, the Centre for Responsible Business (CRB), and regenagri to advance regenerative cotton farming practises in India.

Shivam Dwivedi
Regenagri-certified cotton is sustainable, ensures fair value to farmers, and complies with national and international policy priorities
Regenagri-certified cotton is sustainable, ensures fair value to farmers, and complies with national and international policy priorities

'The Reclaim to Regenerate: Towards Regenerative Cotton Sector in India' event in Nagpur, Maharashtra, served as the official launch of the ACRE Alliance. According to the Alliance (ACRE), implementing a unique initiative will improve the livelihoods of over 500,000 smallholder cotton farmers and their communities in India while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 1 million tonnes by 2030.

Through this Alliance, Solidaridad and CRB hope to foster a new, more systemic form of collaboration among stakeholders along the value chain, including farmer organisations, ginners, traders, buyers, brands, and agricultural and textile authorities.

This collaboration will enable the necessary change in agricultural practices. Leading brands, buyers, and participants in the textile value chain who are committed to sustainability and value the principles of regenagri cotton attended the programme. The Nagpur Declaration, a call to action issued by the partners, asks responsible businesses to pledge their support for regenagri-certified cotton. Regenagri-certified cotton is sustainable, ensures fair value to farmers, and complies with national and international policy priorities, according to Solidaridad, CRB, and regenagri.

They are confident that by collaborating with the stakeholder groups, they will produce 50,000 tonnes of regenagri-certified cotton in the next year, which will come from the fields of 10,000 farmers and be used by at least 10 fashion brands. Additionally, it is anticipated to encourage consumers, brands, and retailers to source cotton sustainably, assisting them on their path to net-zero emissions. One of the biggest exporters of cotton yarn is India, and cotton makes up 20% of industrial labour and 16% of industrial capital. However, cotton production is also connected to problems like farmer angst, environmental risk, and social and environmental injustice.

For instance, the rainfall variability risk is growing for cotton monoculture in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Inorganic fertilisers and pesticides are frequently used carelessly during crop production, harming the area's biodiversity and the quality of the soil and water. As a result, many companies are now keen to promote ethical agricultural practises. To popularise regenerative agriculture, which promises better living conditions and ecological sustainability, Solidaridad, CRB, and regenagri have joined forces. In Vidarbha, Maharashtra, in 2020, Solidaridad piloted one of India's largest regenagri certification programmes, aiding 8,000 small farmers in implementing these practises. Solidaridad is currently collaborating with over 100,000 farmers in the area, which would reduce about 100,000 tonnes of GHG.

HeskeVerburg, Managing Director of Solidaridad Europe, honoured some of the progressive farmers in attendance for their efforts. Because it strikes a balance between the needs of smallholders and the requirement to resurrect the natural systems for sustainable production, regenerative agriculture is now being considered as a viable alternative to conventional agriculture. By rebuilding soil organic matter, surface and subsurface carbon pools, and restoring degraded soil biodiversity—which leads to carbon drawdown and water cycle improvement—regenerative agriculture can actively contribute to reversing climate change. Simply put, it involves turning global agriculture from a degenerative to a generative system that produces agricultural products, stores carbon, and improves biodiversity on individual farms.

The Alliance of Cotton & Textile Stakeholders on Regenerative Agriculture (ACRE), which Solidaridad, CRB will jointly manage, and regenagri, aims to promote regenerative agricultural practices by:

  • Supporting the scaling up of regenerative agriculture in cotton with the vision of making India the world's largest producer of certified regenerative cotton

  • Improving methods/tools that balance smallholder benefits with environmental protection and improve soil health in various agro-climatic regions and landscapes where cotton is grown in India.

  • Educating domestic and foreign users and consumers to demand regenerative cotton

  • Regenerative agriculture success stories in cotton are being documented and shared.

  • Supporting the expansion of certified regenerative cotton production in India to make it the largest producer in the world.  

  • Facilitating cooperation between participants in India's cotton and textile value chains on regenerative agriculture in the country's various cotton landscapes

  • Enhancing soil health and smallholder benefits in various cotton-growing regions and landscapes in India through the development of tools and/or mechanism(s)

  • Educating consumers and users both domestically and abroad to demand regenerative cotton preserving and sharing cotton regenerative agriculture success stories tackling national and state-level regenerative agriculture and natural farming policy issues - building buyers' and brands' capacity and expertise to promote wider adoption of regenerative practices in the cotton and textile industries

  • Establishing connections between initiatives focusing on carbon, climate, and biodiversity finance and cotton farmers who practice regenerative agriculture.

Solidaridad, CRB, and regenagri are collaborating to expand regenerative agriculture to larger landscapes and across crops, starting with cotton, because they are dedicated to effective and inclusive programmes on the ground. The National Mission on Natural Farming, a project of the Indian government, is partly supported by the ACRE Alliance. To coordinate the Alliance's plans with the BharatiyaPrakritik Krishi Paddhati Programme under the national mission to promote agrarian livelihoods and address climate change and biodiversity loss, Solidaridad and CRB will engage with government authorities.

Dr. Shatadru Chattopadhyay, Managing Director of Solidaridad Asia, stated this at the Alliance's official launch: "Arable land larger than the size of England is abandoned every year due to land degradation; in other words, more rainforests or savannahs need to be ploughed to make up for this loss. The next development after sustainable agriculture is regenerative agriculture. According to Solidaridad, regenerative agriculture is the sustainable form of agriculture for this decade. "Regenagri has been doing great work in India where, as of October 2022, more than 40,000 farms are already certified under this programme," said Franco Costantini, CEO of regenagri.

The partnership with Solidaridad and the Center for Responsible Business is a fantastic chance to scale up and deliver the positive impacts that stakeholders demand. "This partnership will create opportunities for cotton and textile buyers and brands to collaborate with producers/farmers to regenerate natural systems and mitigate climate change," said Rijit Sengupta, CEO of the Centre for Responsible Business (CRB). This initiative's demonstration that farmers can participate actively in achieving our nation's climate goals is one of its most compelling features.

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