Since its inception by the United Nation in 1972, World Environment Day has served to focus global attention and awareness on the protection of our environment. This year’s World Environment Day marks the beginning of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a decade committed to the restoration and conservation of our ecosystems. However, restoration doesn’t necessarily mean returning the environment to its original state as all ecosystems need to adapt to climate change. Instead, restoration in this regard means facilitating the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed whilst conserving the ecosystems that are still intact.
Restoration can happen in a number of ways – for example, through active planting or removing pressures so that nature can recover on its own. At OCA, we see organic agriculture as a key accelerant for that recovery. By working with nature and not against it, organic farmers rely on ecological processes and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of chemical inputs with adverse effects. As a model for more sustainable, regenerative production, organic farming creates an ecosystem that supports both farmers and the environment, enabling cotton producers to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Restoring ecosystems in India
OCA Farm Programme
At OCA we fully acknowledge the benefits of organic agriculture and see farmers as stewards of the land and catalysts for the powerful and positive impact organic cotton can have on people, planet, and prosperity. We also know how hard it can be for farmers to switch to and stick with organic cotton farming which is why our Farm Programme is geared specifically towards supporting farmers to practice and champion organic principles.
We ensure our farmers receive premium payments and sourcing commitments from brands and retailers guaranteeing a secure market for them to sell their cotton. During the cultivation stage, they are equipped with the agricultural training, agronomic insight and access to high quality seed supply and other critical inputs they need to produce organic cotton in the best way possible, so they can reap the biodiversity benefits of organic farming while improving their livelihoods.
We are proud to say our Farm Programme contributes to ecosystem restoration in the following ways:
Eliminating the use of synthetic agrochemical inputs by favouring ecological solutions that promote (not degrade) natural processes. Organic farmers implement holistic strategies to reduce the use and consequences of synthetic inputs and promote a farm system that works in harmony with nature. The result is reduced cost, stronger plants, healthier wildlife, and a cleaner environment for everyone.
Increasing the capacity of soils to sequester carbon and hold water. We train in-conversion and certified organic farmers in the specific organic and regenerative practices that promote soil health and functionality. Soils higher in soil organic matter are more biologically diverse and active, better at holding water and are often more drought tolerant.
Protecting, restoring and enhancing biodiversity (including native plant and animal species and their habitats), both on the farm and in the surrounding landscape. By its very nature, organic agriculture sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people by conserving and contributing positively to biodiversity. The organic principles practiced in our Farm Programme can sustain biodiversity through the following practices:
Providing food and shelter for wild species found on farms and thus increasing their number and variety.
Supporting high levels of agro-biodiversity at the farm, especially through the use of diverse cotton species and cultivars.
Maintaining healthy soils and soil fauna, such as earthworms.
Reducing the risk of water pollution.
Cutting the demand for synthetic inputs, thereby reducing the need to generate energy to produce them, which itself can involve destroying wildlife habitat.
Nourishing ecosystems and ensuring that they are not cleared to further extend the agricultural frontier.
OCA Seed and Innovation Programme
Biodiversity, the variety of life found on Earth, is the foundation of all agriculture and therefore an important part of ecosystem restoration. Healthier ecosystems, with richer biodiversity, deliver greater benefits such as fertile soils, bigger agricultural yields, and larger stores of greenhouse gases.
Biodiversity encompasses three interconnected levels of diversity: ecosystems diversity; species diversity within an ecosystem; and the genetic diversity within each species. The higher the genetic diversity, the more readily a species can adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Cottonseed is the carrier of cotton genetic diversity, so seeds are a critical key to the climate resilience of organic farming practices and ensuring that farmers can access the right quality and type of seed appropriate to their local environment and farming system is a critical key to ecosystem restoration for OCA.
Through our Seed and Innovation Programme, we’re working to improve the availability and diversity of non-GM cottonseed in key production regions. By recognising the value of genetic diversity available in India, and integrating it into a portfolio of improved and diverse local organic cotton varieties (cultivars) through our Global Seed Strategy we can meet our goal of boosting the development, commercial release and production of non-GM / organic cultivars around the world. Achieving this goal will have a profound impact on agronomic benefits such as crop resilience; environmental benefits through water and nutrient-efficiency, and socio-economic benefits such as farmers’ empowerment in cultivar selection processes.
Join us and make a difference
OCA’s programmes are unlocking the necessary investment from brands and retailers, generating new confidence in organic cotton from the production base and sparking a reawakening to the regenerative benefits of organic agriculture.
We want to inspire others to see the incredible potential of organic and regenerative practices in cotton cultivation as a nature-based solution for people and planet alike. If you care about the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of both people and nature, you can make a difference by voicing your choice. If you are a brand and/or retailer or within the organic cotton supply chain you can join us to reimagine how cotton is cultivated, recreate the conditions for organic cotton to thrive and restore our planet.
The time to act is now.