Promoting Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in the Cotton Supply Chain

The project contributes to the implementation of Decent Work in the cotton supply chain in India by supporting the implementation of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW).

Project background:

Cotton is an important agricultural commodity responsible for employment generation, income and food security to millions of farmers and their families across the world. Globally, it provides income to more than 250 million people and employs almost 7% of all labour in developing countries. India is the largest cotton producing and the second largest cotton exporting country. It plays a major role in sustaining the livelihood of an estimated 5.8 million cotton farmers and 40-50 million people engaged in related activities such as cotton processing and trade (Ministry of Textiles, GOI, 2018). India also has the distinction of having the largest area under cotton cultivation in the world i.e. about 11 million hectares (Ministry of Textiles, GOI, 2018). Directly and indirectly affecting significant portions of the population, it is evident that the sector occupies a strategic position in the development of poverty reduction policies and programs.

Sustainability of cotton production involves addressing its labour impact on farmers, workers, their families and communities. While there is a breadth of diversity in the forms and scale of cultivation of cotton ranging from plantations to smallholdings; low income and economic insecurity are also associated in this sector, particularly for women, migrant and seasonal workers. In many cotton communities, children can be found performing work while for the adults, repeated indebtedness can give rise to ‘debt trap’ and lead to bondage like situation and even suicide. In addition to this, women tend to be segregated to lower paying tasks in some of the most arduous parts of the cotton cycle. The implementation of cotton producers’ and workers’ collective rights also is either negligible or often weak. Hazardous working conditions risks are noticed at several stages of the cotton production including the use of pesticides in the fields.

In order to increase the sustainability of the cotton and garment industries, small producers and workers should be enabled to work themselves out of poverty in decent conditions with their internationally recognized freedoms intact. FPRW are minimum standards which enable economic growth to go hand in hand with human development and provide foundation for equitable and just societies. These rights are ranged in four categories, namely freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Project objectives:

The project aims to enhance evidence based knowledge on FPRW in the cotton supply chain (unorganized/informal sector) to enable the policy makers and implementers to address the gaps and support promotion of decent work and livelihood to all in need in cotton growing communities. It will create an ecosystem through social dialogues which generates an interest among the policy makers, small and medium enterprise/businesses, producers and other stakeholders about the benefits and respect for the rights and enabling process at the workplaces, necessary for productive and sustainable cotton supply chain.

As an integral part of 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, the project will contribute to the implementation of the UN Global Compact and SDG 8 on ‘Decent Work for All’, with a focus on SDG 8.7and Alliance 8.7 (the global strategic partnership committed to achieving SGD Target 8.7). To ensure maximum degree of participation and leadership of women, the issues will be integrated in the overall implementation framework of the project.

The strategy is built around three mutually reinforcing outcomes:
  1. Knowledge base: Mapping of the cotton supply chain as well as diagnostics of elements of four categories of FPRW in the targeted communities/areas; promotion of good practices through replication/ up scaling of existing national/international experiences; and documentation of good practices and lessons learnt for dissemination and implementation in other parts of the country;
  2. Training and capacity building: Develop capacities of stakeholders to understand the importance of four pillars of FPRW and start respecting and realising it at crucial stages of cotton production cycle; provide training and guidance to the cotton growing communities to promote social dialogue, cooperation and respect for FPRW;
  3. Social dialogue and engagement: Bipartite, Tripartite and multi-stakeholders cross sector dialogue for coherent and joint action to ensure fundamental rights at work in cotton and sustainability of the supply chain.

Implementing partners:

National and state Governments, district administration; workers organizations; employers organisations; businesses; research organizations; civil society organizations and cooperatives.

Target Beneficiaries:

The direct beneficiaries are rural workers, producers and cotton communities including women and children, and their organizations in India. The project will also benefit cotton and garment industries partners and stakeholders.

For further information, please contact:

Ranjit Prakash
National Project Coordinator
Phone: +91-11-47509200