Organic Cotton Profits on Women’s Back Breaking Work

Women Handweeding Cotton

Women Handweeding Cotton

Organic cotton is highly profitable. However, growing cotton without  herbicides for controlling weeds means that more labor is needed in back breaking hand weeding. A recent analysis of organic cotton production reports that the bulk of this labor falls on women’s backs.

“The aim of this article is to describe the economic performance and perceived social and environmental impacts of organic cotton in southern Kyrgyzstan… Due to lower input costs as well as organic and fair trade price premiums, the average gross margin from organic cotton was 27% higher… The major disadvantage of organic farming is the high manual labor input required. In the study area, where manual farm work is mainly women’s work and male labor migration is widespread, women are most affected by this negative aspect of organic farming.

The vast majority of female respondents from organic farms (farm managers or wives) perceived higher workloads. It was generally agreed that organic farming requires more manual work, is more labor intensive, and that women in particular must bear the negative effects because (a) manual work is typically done by women, and (b) the work-related outmigration of men has left more work to women in general. Indeed, the biggest negative impact perceived by respondents in regards to organic farming—an increased workload—appeared to affect women the most.”

Author: Bachmann, F.
Affiliation: Centre for Development and Environment CDE, University of Bern, Switzerland.
Title: Potential and limitations of organic and fair trade cotton for improving livelihoods of smallholders: evidence from Central Asia.
Source: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 2011. 27(2):138-147.

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