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KASKOM: Revival of Desi Cotton

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan

Do spin & spin after due deliberation. Let those who spin wear Khaddar & let no one who wears (khadi) fail to spin. 'Due deliberation' means realization that charkha or act of spinning is the symbol of non- violence. Ponder; it will be self- evident.
M.K.Gandhi

Kaskom brings back the 5000 -year-old traditional and indigenous Desi cotton of India and hopes to create a sustainable value chain too. KASKOM is an initiative of BASECAMP Social Research Foundation, to revive the indigenous cotton varieties and its cultivation across India. By promoting & producing hand-spun (amber charkha) and hand-woven fabrics, Kaskom ensures a better livelihood for spinners and weavers. With chemical-free processing and natural dyeing the fabrics produced are so very natural and safe to your skin.

Kaskom is an entrepreneurial venture of a young enthusiast of Organic Farming who is at present doing an exceptional work in the area of conservation, also in developing the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for all the activities of the seed to fabric, from Indian short-stapled indigenous cotton, along with Ghandhigram Khadi, Dindugal, Gram Seva Mandal and Wardha. He is at present very instrumental in connecting the Khadi people across the country to work with Indigenous cotton. Kaskom also gets involved with farmers of rainfed tracts of Dindugal & Perambalur district for reviving the cotton-based multi cropping system.

Swaminathan during his travels understood that a small section of  Indian farmers in the country’s rainfed regions have at present started their Revival for indigenous cotton, since it showed resilence to drought and pests including bollworms. Jayadhar cotton of Karnataka, Karunganni cotton of Tamilnadu, Waghad cotton of Gujarat, Konda pathi & Erapathi cotton of Andhra are slowly getting re-recognition among farmers. Farmers could cultivate them organically thus helping in the reduction of total cost of production and opt intercropping of food crops, which in turn will provide the farmers a minimum guarantee of safe and sustainable livelihood.

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Kaskom’s concerns vary from Giant mechanized mills that are were setup all over the country, with medium & long stapled American cotton as the raw material and also the the Indian cotton being considered coarse and inferior. The pressure from mills, Govt Policies and incentives are forcing the farmers to take up American cotton cultivation. Due to this change, the Indian hand spinning and handloom sectors have gradually declined and the artisans were cornered ultimately and their livelihood was greatly affected says Swaminathan.

The traditional system of cotton farming with indigenous cotton was tried in Tamil Nadu in since 2015-16 cropping year; it gave good response among farmers in rainfed tracts. When coming to processing, Tamil Nadu has the giant cotton processing centers, but those contemporary spinning mills were not able to spin their short and medium stapled cotton, somehow issues have been rectified and following things have been figured.viz., Since the machines were being designed for long stapled American cotton, the indigenous short stapled cotton can’t be spun in regular machines, it needs older machines. Trouble shooting in the older machines has been done and it’s been proved that yarn can be made out of this short stapled cotton without blending with long stapled cotton; this work was carried out at a pilot plant in South Indian Textile Research organization (SITRA). Spinning has been carried out at Gandhigram Khadi & VIPC Trust, Dindugal, with the settings from SITRA and its been woven and good quality fabric was made out of it. Also apart from weaving, Knitting was also tried and the country’s first polo shirts, made out of indigenous cotton have been done.

In an effort to help revive the Indigenous cotton Swaminathan and his friend Soumik travelled across 5 different states in North East and identified the landraces over there. They also travelled in Gujarat, Maharashtra, found out the cotton landraces still existing there.They collected very limited seeds available over those places, and did some basic study and they are cultivating those seeds with due safety measures to prevent cross pollination in Mr.Bhairab's field in West Bengal. In this study he recognises the immense help given by the Agricultural Cotton Scientists In India regarding identification ,logistics and study materials.

Kaskom’s breathable fabrics with high absorbency are recommended for Indian climatic conditions providing safe and healthy clothing solutions. The fabrics varies from Lungis, Dhotis, Handtowels to Polo shirts in Blue and Turmeric yellow colour. The prices are comparitively higher because of the lesser units produced. In the longer run,we hope the organisation would  become self sustainable in its own terms.

Kaskom had dispalyed its fabrics in  and also partiicpated in The GABA alternate fashion show at Udaipur,Organic Mahotsav 2019.

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