Seed Dialogues

Snapshots of 5 projects promoting farmer access to organic cottonseed

At Textile Exchange’s 2013 annual conference in Istanbul, we interviewed 5 people working on various seed projects around the world, all with the overarching aim of improving farmers’ access to organic and non-GMO cottonseed. On this page you will find brief overviews of each of these projects along with short interviews with project leaders, discussing various topics such as key challenges and benefits to the community.

Film Credits: Sincere thanks to Inditex for funding the production of these videos and to the production team: 

  • Production Manager: Oğuzhan Başoğlu
  • Camera Crew: Zafer Akınç and Hamdi Karakaya
  • Production Asistant: Yunus Emre Boylu

Arun Ambatipudi, Chetna Organic, discusses the ‘Seed Guardians Project’ (a collaboration between Chetna Organic, Inditex & Textile Exchange)

The Seed Guardians Project is training 20 seed custodians, primarily women, to possess the knowledge, skills and ability to lead on the delivery of seed production in their communities. These 20 seed custodians will support 600 farmers in 6 villages, providing advice and ensuring seed security. Seed Guardians are part of a larger scale multi-stakeholder network dedicated to improving seed choice, including seed breeders, producer groups, and other experts.






Edith Lammerts van Bueren, Louis Bolk Institute, discusses the 'Participatory Breeding Program', Uganda (a collaboration between LBI and Agro-Eco)

This project works in the Lango and Teso regions of Uganda, working closely with the NaSARRI Breeding Station and local farmers to identify the main constraints and most desired characteristics of various cottonseed varieties. Trials were carried out at the breeding station and, later, in farmers’ fields, to evaluate the performances of different varieties. This has the dual benefit of empowering farmers by involving them in the research process and ensuring they choose the most appropriate seed variety for their local climate and low-input style of farming. This is especially important in Uganda, which has a ‘one variety’ policy, making it difficult for farmers to change varieties frequently. 


Dhawal Mane, Pratibha Syntex, discusses ‘Seed Multiplication for Seed Security’ (a collaboration between Pratibha Syntex, CottonConnect & C&A)

The goal of this project is to ensure easy and affordable access to organic, non-GMO cottonseed and also to create more sustainable livelihoods through encouraging the wider growth of organic cotton. Over recent years the project has screened multiple cottonseed varieties to find the one most suited to local conditions - NH-615 - which can now be multiplied and used by farmers wanting to grow cotton organically. Training is also a central element of this project and is used firstly to convince farmers of the many benefits of growing cotton organically and, secondly, to teach them the practical steps required to achieve successful organic production.




Tong Yeung, Mecilla, discusses ‘Agro-ecology Demonstration Plots for Seed Development’ (a collaboration between Mecilla, Inditex & Textile Exchange)

This project uses 3 demonstrations plots as an innovation ground and teaching space for organic cotton production. Researchers have tested over 200 varieties of non-GMO cottonseed to find the 6 highest performing varieties, which will be reproduced and distributed to local farming cooperatives in north-west China. The aim is to provide farmers with genuine organic cottonseed and avoid organic cotton becoming contaminated with GMOs, which has been a serious issue in the past.





Monika Messmer, FiBL - Discusses the ‘Green Cotton Project’, India (a collaboration between FiBL, bioRe, Chetna Organic and the University of Dharwad)

The Green Cotton Project promotes participatory cotton breeding for organic and resource efficient cropping systems in India. The project decentralizes cotton breeding initiatives in order to safeguard traditional, locally adapted, non-GMO cottonseed varieties - empowering and meeting the needs of organic and low-input smallholders. The project uses an innovative, transdisciplinary approach in which smallholders, breeders, researchers, extensionists, spinning and textile industries are actively involved from the very beginning.





The Green Cotton Project, described above, also features in the fantastic video below produced by FiBL about the use of participatory research to foster innovation in agriculture: