The Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) recently developed its first training resource dedicated to Decent Work at the farm level in India. This is a next step in OCA’s long-term commitment to improve the working conditions and well-being of people working in organic cotton farms in the geographies where we operate. Through investments in capacity-building, awareness, and monitoring we seek to support our farming partners on the ground with the right materials allowing them to empower the farming communities in our network.

Organic agriculture standards generally do not specifically address decent work or social criteria. Yet, smallholder farmers and farm workers are amongst the most vulnerable groups in terms of access to decent work conditions.

Since its inception, OCA has been supporting farmers engaged in organic cotton production to prosper by ensuring a secure market and a higher price for their fibre, creating the conditions for economic improvement at the farm level. Working toward a better income for smallholder farmers is a key first step ensuring better livelihoods at farm-level. Yet, we want to support with more than better incomes alone. With the support of our Implementing Partners, we aspire to use the unique position we hold in the organic cotton sector, to drive positive impact in working conditions at the organic cotton farms in our network.

“In a sustainable commodity supply chain, especially within farming communities, it is important to safeguard and access rights and entitlements to decent work conditions,” said Jyoti Sharma, Head of Region – South Asia at OCA. “While organic certification standards duly consider environmental aspects, they often overlook labour and social criteria at the farm level. OCA, with nearly 90,000 smallholder cotton farmers in South Asia, strives to ensure economic improvement by providing a secure market and higher prices for their products. We are now working with stakeholders and partners to improve Decent Work conditions at the farm level.”

About the Decent Work Training

The Decent Work Training is a first step in raising awareness and knowledge about key social issues relevant to farmers as well as farm-labour in an organic cotton farm. Tailored for the Indian context in consultation with sector experts and OCA’s Implementing Partners, it comprises eight modules available in English and Hindi, delving into the detailed social and economic aspects of Decent Work. The training outlines the four core principles of Decent Work: employment creation, social protection, standards and rights at work, and governance and social dialogue.

The training curriculum was developed in collaboration with Traidcraft and supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Linda Schraml, Head of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles at GIZ stated: “Trainings on Decent Work complement the ecological principles of organic agriculture, contributing to a holistic approach to sustainability within the cotton sector. The curriculum addresses essential topics like child and forced labor and also encompasses occupational health and safety, advocates for living wages and gender equality. We are particularly pleased to learn about the positive feedback received from participants in the pilot workshops.”

“The work with OCA in developing the training curriculum has been to demystify the concept of Decent Work and make it relevant for OCA’s Implementing Partners,” said Mukesh Tiwary, Business Head, Traidcraft. “The curriculum is simple, engaging and based on the principles of Adult Learning Cycle, meaning adults learn through experiences and self-reflection. The curriculum arrives at an important time when the EU is mandating businesses and brands to follow Human Rights Due Diligence in their supply chains.”

The training curriculum is designed for agriculture extension teams of our Implementing Partners. OCA has already tested it with our Partners in the previous cotton season and will now roll it out across our Indian Farm Programme through training workshops.

Decent work for farming communities: a long-term commitment

In tandem with our current capacity-building initiatives, OCA is currently developing a Decent Work strategy to systematically promote better working conditions at the farm level in the long-run. We aim to build broad awareness on the topic of Decent Work among the numerous field staff members of our Implementing Partners as they are the first connection with farmers and farm workers. This year we are also piloting direct training activities with farmers and farm workers. This will enable us to combine our capacity- building support with the implementation of Decent Work guidelines, along with risk-mapping and monitoring tools at the farm-level. By doing so, we will be better equipped in supporting the farming communities we work with in accessing their right to decent working conditions.

Download the Decent Work Training Curriculum here.

Decent Work, as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for all, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.