In Brief 1/2015: Cheap makes hungry
Human rights have to be respected in cotton and textile production
The fashion merry-go-round is turning faster and faster, and we are buying clothes and sorting them out again at a faster and faster rate. Natural resources are wasted, human rights are repeatedly violated.
Whereas textile companies make most of their profit on the way from the cotton fields to the finished T-shirt, farmers, dyers, weavers or seamstresses are often living under precarious and undignified conditions. Since the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex on the 24th April 2013, in which more than 1,110 textile workers lost their lives, only little has improved. This is why a U-turn based on determined action is urgently needed: on the part of politicians, businesses and consumers. Instead of voluntary recommendations, we need binding ecological and social minimum standards for cultivation and further processing up to trading and marketing. And thoughtful consumers can support this process, also by building up public pressure.
Cotton is grown in around 80 countries, 28 of which are in Africa. It continues to be one of the most important agricultural raw materials in textile industry, and it provides a living for 250 million people. In the past, it was a secure source of income for the farmers, who are nowadays suffering from volatile world market prices, also as a result of government subsidies by countries such as the USA, China and also the EU. In Africa, it is above all smallholder farmers that grow slightly more than seven per cent of the world harvest by hand and with the simplest of farming methods, whereas in other countries, millions and millions of tons are created for mass production with the use of irrigation systems, agro-chemistry and high-tech harvesting machines.
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