Workshop on collectivizing farmers and agricultural workers in cotton production in Telangana

The project Promoting fundamental principles and rights at work (FPRW) in the cotton supply chain organized a this workshop with the objective of promoting FPRW among the marginal & small farmers through existing collectives like cooperatives or Farmers Producers’ organizations (FPOs).

The project organized a ‘Technical Workshop on Collectivizing Farmers and Agricultural Workers in Cotton Production’.

The objective of the workshop was to promote FPRW in cotton among the marginal & small farmers through existing collectives like cooperatives or Farmers Producers’ organizations (FPOs). Twenty-five members of such organizations attended the workshop. They discussed the issues in cotton production, workplace hazards and nature of interventions to be taken up.

This was followed by the second consultation where representatives of Government and CSOs joined the discussion. As a result of these consultations, the FPOs and farmers leaders have shown interest in promoting the labour standards related to FPRW in the action plan of their organizations.

Finally, it was recommended by the participants to implement activities for capacity building and mainstreaming of these labour standards into the organizational mandate of FPOs.

Kelvin Sergeant, specialist for Small Enterprise Development and Job Creation with ILO DWT South Asia/India, participated and explained the tools of social and solidarity of economy for farmers’ cooperatives and collectives. These tools include job security, improved working conditions, better wages.

Kelvin reiterated that cooperatives and collectives should have clear economic, social and environmental objectives laid out to address poverty, hunger along with providing primary education to the children. The participants then discussed the major issues in cotton production and suggested solutions to address them.

Key issued identified were seed quality, equal wages, gender discrimination, health of workers and farmers, low wages, occupational hazards, child labour and limited avenues of collective bargaining were discussed.

The workshop concluded with an understanding that as cotton is one of the main crop grown in Telangana with several issues across the supply chain, focusing on the production systems by creating awareness about the FPRW would be an important aspect.

To achieve this, collectivizing farmers and labourers should be an institutional strategy and it will help sustain any new initiatives. Since Telangana has more than 450 FPOs, it was felt that the project should map out the relevant FPOs, take advantage of this social capital and build their capacities for implementation of FPRW. The labour groups can also support the existing/new FPOs to develop their skills and strengthen collective bargaining.