A project to revive bygone cotton route

AARDE Foundation, which works for the conservation of Pulicat region, has started an initiative called Revival of Cotton that will link ecology, farmers and weavers of the region.
A project to revive bygone cotton route
Weavers producing clothes; Coromandel cotton ; Xavier Benedict

Chennai

Do you know there is a street called Palayakat Street in Malaysia that exclusively sells lungis made of Coromandel cotton from Tamil Nadu? The Coromandel cotton was superior in quality and designs of Kalamkari added more value to it. Even, the cotton cloth was a symbol of prestige among the nobles of Europe. However, this cotton completely vanished from the agriculture and weaving practices due to various reasons. Till today, Palaykat or Pazhaverkadu (Pulicat) is the tag given for the cotton by-products in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Singapore, Indonesia, Mexico, and Japan.
AARDE Foundation that is actively involved in promotion and conservation of natural and built heritage of Pulicat lagoon, has started an initiative called Revival of Cotton that will link ecology, farmers, and weavers of the Pulicat region. “Pulicat was once the largest producer and exporter of the much sought-after Coromandel cotton clothes. We are aware that our farmers are deprived of sustainable income. The news of farmers’ suicide is very common nowadays and we should not just be blaming inadequate rainfall and hefty loans. The history gives an entirely different picture,” says Xavier Benedict, founder trustee of AARDE Foundation.
Recently, through translation of archived documents, the AARDE Foundation team has found that the regions of Tamil Nadu and coastal Andhra Pradesh were one of the largest producers of premium cotton in the world, especially, Coromandel-cotton. “The various records state that more than 4,500 ships visited this region to exchange gold for cotton. Though Tamil Nadu and coastal Andhra Pradesh rank within top 10 producers in the country, the big question is how the farmers are not able to get sustainable income. It’s found that the indigenous cotton was replaced with BT-cotton seeds, which made the farmers fully dependent on foreign seeds and chemicals. We need to revive indigenous cotton production and bring a positive impact on farmers and weavers. Through this, we could also bring attention to the wetlands’ ecosystem of Tamil Nadu and coastal Andhra Pradesh,” he hopes.
As an initial step, the team will identify farmers and weavers in Pulicat and Buckingham canal regions. With the help of agriculture universities, they will establish indigenous cotton seed banks. “We also will provide adequate sources to the farmers to grow Indian cotton and financial support to the weavers for production of clothing material. Once the production starts, through the support of international NGOs, we can develop direct marketing to Gulf countries,” Xavier shares. 
With a sustainable action plan, the revival of cotton route will re-establish the cultural-landscape. “Encouraging sustainable farming will revive the soil and boost earthworms besides improving the village economy. This will also revive ethnic lungi cloth culture.”

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