Origin of Tula
We were a bunch of friends who jumped off the corporate tread mill and began working with farmers and helped them go organic. We started a not-for-profit organic retail outlet 11 years back called Restore, (restore.org.in
). Subsequently, we floated the OFM (Organic Farmers Market http://www.ofmtn.in/
) to take the organic produce to the middle class, thus running a series of collective stores as a distributor-retailer cooperative model.
Tula's roots emerged out of a revival of organic farming of indigenous foods. It all began in 2007 in Chennai, during a brainstorming session amongst friends, who wanted to address the agriculture and farmer crisis ravaging India through an environmentally and economically sustainable way.
By 2010, the 10 years of Bt cotton showed a very sad state of affairs for the environment and human health, farmers plight, seed sovereignty and added to this was the industry’s known exploitative techniques. In a meeting organised to discuss the ills of Bt cotton and 10 years of it in India, one of the most belligerent and well known farmer Vivek Cariappa shamed us all questioning- if all (y)our inner garments are also made from Bt cotton what are we doing here analysing it still?
That hit us as much as the question of a benign bystander in one of our chennai organic/safe food meetings – if 70% of the farm suicides are in the cotton belts what are you guys doing working only with safe food and organic farmers? These led us to look deeper on the cotton value chain and plunge in!
The picture of cotton was a sorry state of affairs. We were concerned with issues such as the condition of the farmer, use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, costs of production, pathetic remuneration to the workers, returns on investment, genetically modified crop varieties and availability of seeds. These issues became the basis for Tula to focus on reviving rain-fed desi cotton value chain.
Organic clothing has become the need of the hour as much as understanding its ethical value chain, revival of khadi and promoting local livelihoods. Desi cotton was always accompanied by manual spinning and hand weaving of the most skilled and aesthetic kind making India world famous for its textiles. Even the world famous Dhaka muslin was woven with desi cotton in those days of yore.
So, a set of friends invested, through the crowdfunding model, and took up cotton growing to upgrade the value chain in an ethical and eco-friendly manner. Tula was set up to conduct the whole process, as a not-for-profit, ensuring all livelihoods in the value chain improved and bettered. And we are still spinning and weaving it as eco friendly and ethical as you can get, the worlds lightest garment you can ever sport!