The Backstory


Purchasing the lone farmer’s naturally grown brown coloured cotton was the easiest part of our work in the first year. The local co-operative whose spinner and weaver members made the yarn and textile, found it economically unsustainable to continue the work. It paid a premium over the Bt white cotton rate to the farmer, but was unable to find a market which could absorb the ‘true’ cost of the textile.


The farmer led us to the ginner just a few metres from his house where he stocked the harvested seed cotton [kapas]. The first challenge came at the slivering stage. The plant at Chitradurga processed cotton in million bales. In the absence of any small scale slivering machines locally, it was a long wait until the big machine accommodated the few quintals of our cotton because it had to be cleaned to ensure the residual white cotton does not contaminate our brown cotton lint. This led us to understand that lack of access to alternative seeds aside, small landholding cotton farmers can neither earn the right price for their produce nor process and sell a value-added product like home-spun yarn in the open market, due to lack of small-scale post-harvest processing units.


Santosh Koulagi of Janapada Seva Trust [JST] took charge from there on, with the ambara-charaka spinning and weaving. The first generation weavers at JST became the first weavers to weave with short-staple brown yarn on both warp and weft of a hand loom.




Since the work was imagined as a land-to-loom process, the production of cloth became a natural culmination of our work with the farmer. While our attention to textile making and creating a market for it is necessary, the core of our work is towards:

a] building a critical mass of farmers who make the shift from chemical intensive farming to a cultivation practice which prioritises soil along with their livelihoods with this naturally coloured cotton. 

b] decentralising cotton processing systems since short-staple cotton processing has no ready references. 

c] future possibilities where farmers may explore their potential to exercise agency and forge an ecological and economic future for themselves, through brown cotton.

One side of the coin displays a happy picture wherein since 2018, the number of farmers engaged has increased from 1 to 25, across 2 districts, despite years lost to the pandemic. The other side is fraught with the struggles which come with the lack of necessary funds to sustain a small enterprise. R & D on cultivation practices, explorations with lint, yarn and textile making have been continuous, as is market creation and growth.