A word on Water
We all need hydration – right? It turns out that cotton does too. Known as a ‘thirsty’ crop, conventionally grown cotton requires about 10,000 litres for 1kg of cotton. Considering we’re growing cotton in a country where 70% of drinking water is contaminated, water scarcity and protecting the cleanliness of water, is an issue we want to address head on.
We’re committed to finding fashion solutions that are kind to people and planet. When we were presented with the opportunity to pilot a regenerative cotton farm in Southern India – a programme that would benefit the farmers, the soil, and the cotton – there was no question in our minds. We had to do it, and we had to do it right.
Because this is the regeneration generation. And we won’t settle for less.
Water scarcity is very real, and very scary. By 2025, it is predicted that 1.8 billion people will be living in areas with absolute water scarcity. In England – a country known for its seemingly constant showers – it can be difficult to picture this. But let’s be clear: we’re not talking about a month-long hosepipe ban, where nosey neighbours keep tabs on sprinklers and car washing. This isn’t the grass starting to lose its emerald-green sparkle.
It’s a pressing lack of safe drinking water. It’s a lack of any water. It’s not being able to grow food; not being able to provide for family; not being able to provide for a population.
And India is one of the countries most at risk.
So what’s the current situation? Data on water efficiency indicates that India uses 2-3 times more water to produce the same amount of crop than other major agricultural countries like China, Brazil and the US. This trickles down to an over-reliance on conventional flood methods of irrigation (FMI) – which don’t make the most out of the water.
And so, through working with Fibershed, our farms are fully kitted out with a drip irrigation system – giving our plants the hydration they need, without draining the resources of the community, or putting further pressure on the planet.
Going back to the roots: what drip irrigation actually means
Drip irrigation systems draw on the resources that we’re given by Mother Nature (read: rain) to slowly drip feed the roots of plants. Water is delivered precisely, without waste. Accurate, efficient, effective.
By going directly to the roots, the systems save precious water and nutrients, meaning farmers can grow crops under conditions they otherwise wouldn’t be able to; making year-round yield a possibility, even amidst the thralls of dry-season. And the statistics speak louder than we can, with on-farm efficiency of drip irrigation systems at over 90%, a wild comparison to the 35-40% efficiency of conventional flood irrigation.
So why doesn’t everyone do it?
It can be costly, making it unattainable for some farmers & farming communities. And maintenance of these systems is critical. But for us, this is still a no brainer. A quick cost-benefit analysis tells us everything we need to know. And crucially, our organic farming methods mean we’re not only saving water, but also stopping hazardous chemical pesticides from entering the already precious water supply, because up to 77 million cotton workers suffer poisoning from pesticides each year. This must stop.
But this is an evolving learning opportunity, and we’re the first to admit that we don’t have all the answers. For our first growing season, we got lucky. With a bit of good fortune from the weather-powers-that-be, the majority of our one acre cotton field was successfully rain-fed after a record monsoon season brought the rain that the Indian soil so desperately needed. For now, drip irrigation is working. But this might not always be the case, and should something change in seasons to come, we’re ready to work with farmers and partners to rethink and course correct.
Bedstraw + Madder believes we need to think differently, and challenge an apparel industry known for being dirty. We’re creating intimates with integrity, and through clean cotton, clean colour and clean water, we’re on the way to righting the wrongs of a broken system. We won’t settle for less.