Better Cotton Initiative: Popularizing Cotton Farming in India

Farming in India has primarily been a sustenance-driven activity, with farmers sticking primarily to traditional crops, including cash crops like maize, paddy, jowar, and wheat to generate a livelihood. However, given the challenges that agriculture face in the country — poor rainfall, unfair pricing and a lack of scientific guidelines — having multiple avenues of income can greatly improve the farming community.

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The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is an international program that Deshpande Foundation and IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative partnered to popularize profitable, high quality cotton cultivation in Telangana. The program works with cotton farmers to improve the productivity of cotton farmers and to share scientific practices.

The BCI program has already created a significant impact in the Sandbox region, resulting in a 60% boost in income levels of 15,000 farmers, and improving cotton cultivation in afarming area of nearly 3706 acres.

The program works by bringing together all the elements of cottons supply chain, from the farmers to the retailers. The aim is to make high quality cotton a mainstream farming commodity in the region through environment-friendly, scientific methods. BCI and the Foundation offer farmers direct market linkages, avenues of economic seed procurement and training on scientific methods.

Currently, the program is active among farmers in Karimnagar and Medak regions. Farmers are roped in and screened through gram sabhas on the basis of criteria such as their financial standing, area of cultivation and location. They are introduced to the concept of BCI, and connected to vendors of quality seeds. Involved farmers are also trained on the best scientific practices, and offered direct market linkages with ginners, helping them get rid of middlemen in the sale.