Jaskiran WarrikAs the Director, South Asia, for the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), Jaskiran Warrik currently leads the organisation’s operations in India while working with partners closely to collaborate with 24,000 organic farmers under OCA’s Farmer Engagement and Development (FED) Programme. With over a decade’s experience in the sustainability sector, she has witnessed first-hand how businesses can have a positive impact on people and the planet, and that is how she strives to create value by connecting with the diverse stakeholders of sectors in the agri space. Her career in the agri-industry began as a happy accident when she was looking for her next challenge. When offered a job in sustainable agriculture, she took the leap and never looked back since.
The cotton crop’s importance has notably increased in the last 15 years with extensive expansion in terms of the planted area and output. Over the same period, increased digitalisation has enabled producers globally to increase their productivity levels. What has been the impact of digital technologies in the cotton industry from your experience?
Organic farming is now an expanding economic sector globally. How are different stakeholders in the sector working with brands, suppliers, and retailers to provide organic farmers with secure, diverse, and improved means to income?
Going forward a step from organic and sustainable farming, regenerative agriculture is making headway within the agri-community as a way to improve soil health and thereby enhance the entire ecosystem. How have agricultural practices for cotton evolved in recent years to ensure stronger, healthier crops as well as a better livelihood for farmers?
Adapting to the new normal this year resulted in rethinking processes to ensure a smooth flow of operations, despite pandemic-related challenges. What do you think has changed in the way the cotton value chain operates?
- Audits and certifications will need to be flexible and heavily dependent on technology. With digitisation high on the agenda, the pandemic has only accelerated the need to push digital innovations through and many of our partners are adjusting to find a balance between rigour and pragmatism this year. In the future, digital solutions we apply now may become permanent fixtures leaving some practices redundant.
- Labour shortage was and continues to remain a big challenge not just in India but globally. This will impact harvesting and intercultural activities and influence the selection of crops grown by farmers. Perishable agro-commodities that are labour intensive may see a decrease in supply with farmers looking to grow crops that have easy market access and can also be stored for longer periods to weather price fluctuations.
- Capacity-building projects at farms are and will be challenging to deliver. In India alone, we are moving much of the work online, but the rural sector is not so well connected or prepared to move to digital ways of working quite yet. Additionally, we’ve seen that changes in policies are not translating well in this time of uncertainty.
What are three significant changes that you would like to see in the organic cotton industry in the near future?
- Safeguard the farmer business case. The enthusiasm for a harmonised direct-to-farm approach has grown since we launched our FED Programme and continues to accelerate. At OCA, I know that we must develop our programmes further to deliver on a common agenda for the sector. However, I also know that we need more than a commodity centric approach and more work needs to be done to explore the business case for farmers, beyond just cotton.
- Protect the interests of the supply chain especially workers. To do so, we need to reinforce the structures that support essential activities. The long-term impacts of coronavirus will look to erode the infrastructure that supports services like seed availability, labour welfare and more. At OCA, we encourage our Contributors to invest in essential fields like access to non-GM seed, increasing uptake of organic cotton, and other initiatives that support the most vulnerable players in the supply chain.
- Focus on impact — continuous improvement, not overnight sensation. We can and should begin by reaffirming our commitment to the sector by continuing to grow, sell, and buy organic. It is up to us to support the sector by the choices we make.
Lastly, what inspires you to work continuously in this sector?