Once Upon A Doug

Once Upon a Doug

Since the beginning of the second year Pearson College London Students have been studying a social entrepreneurship module continuing the excellent work our recent graduates had done and have taken on the challenge of further developing a strategy to support communities struggling through India’s agricultural crisis. We have been working with Pave, a UK social enterprise; Chetana Vikas, a non-Governmental organisation in India and No Nasties, an ethical fashion brand.

We are raising awareness and providing income to the wives of cotton farmers in the Wardha region of India. Seeking to escape from poverty, these farmers have taken out loans to buy GM cottonseeds and pesticides, with a promise of a greater yield than the organic equivalent.

However, the soil in Wardha is incompatible with these seeds and the crops often fail. As a result, debt collector’s call for money that isn't there and many farmers choose to take their own lives in order to escape their debt. Unfortunately, this doesn’t wipe out their debt; it merely passes it on to their wives and children.

Once Upon A Doug (OUAD) is a social enterprise that empowers these women with new skills and supplementary income that supports them through periods of low crop yields. These women hand make cotton ‘Dougs’ (‘cloud’ in Hindi), from up-cycled cotton. Each Doug raises awareness as a symbol of the campaign, and represents the story of the woman who made it.

To give the project some background framework, In Maharashtra state, India, an unusually high proportion of farmers are committing suicide frequently, with this number reaching 17,000 in 2011. This is fundamentally down to financial difficulty, small self-governing cotton farmers have invested in genetically modified cotton-seeds. After the crops have either failed or died, many farmers have turned to private loan sharks and alternative loan sources, which is very problematic in which there is no regulation. This is an agrarian crisis, and these debts cause a wide range of socio-economic problems at a community level such as, steep declines in living standards, taking children away from education to work, suicide of farmers leaving their wives widowed and poor physical and mental health and nobody should have to suffer from this.

We’ll travel to Wardha in Central India later this year in which we’ll lay the foundations to:

- Employ unemployed/widowed women to produce upcycled fashion items.

- Continue selling the products in the UK and India to create sustainable income to pay the women.

- Reinvest all profits back into raising wages and into community projects such as social support.

The OUAD team is made up of Pearson College London Students Abbas, Robbie, Simon, David, Harry, Fiona, Emily and myself, and once we’ve achieved the above with our partners in India and the UK, we’ll then work to gradually hand it over to the project’s beneficiaries and the next group of driven Pearson College London students.