Naturally Pigmented Cotton
The word Pakucho simply means brown cotton in the ancient Inca language. Coloured cotton has been grown by the descendants of the Moche culture in areas of Northern Peru for thousands of years. Until recently these rare and unusual varieties of cotton have remained in obscurity, often a closely guarded secret.
In Unimix naturally we use Pakucho coloured cotton, certified 100% organic by the internationally recognised Dutch body Cu (Control Union), a little bit special and unique. From seed to baby apparel they are free from dyes, chemicals and synthetic processing. Unimix naturally is an ethical clothing trade mark that supports fair trade and sustainable farming methods.
Naturally Pigmented Cotton
Fundamental to Pakucho is naturally pigmented cotton. Growing naturally in earthy tones of green and mauve, to many colours of cream and brown, it is unlike any other natural fibre. The colour pigment is contained within the plant fibre itself, so the cotton requires no dyes or further processing. Since ancient times coloured cotton has been grown by the indigenous peoples of America, Asia, Europe and Africa. As early as 2500 BC coloured cotton was cultivated by the fisher folk of Peru’s north coast. The stronger darker fibres were favoured for fishing nets, being less visible to fish swimming near the waters surface.
Traditionally used for spinning and weaving into clothes and textile craft, coloured cotton was also found in medicinal cures, religious rituals and commonly used as a form of currency. Up until the industrial revolution coloured cotton was still widely grown by indigenous people all over the world.
Cultivated in much the same way today as it has always been, our cotton is grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The traditional desert and jungle farming techniques of the native cotton growers work in partnership with nature, fostering a close relationship with their natural environment.
Guano (bird droppings) is used as the main fertilizer and beneficial bugs such as ladybirds are encouraged to prey on the cotton harming bugs. Plants are routinely checked for insects and the harmful ones removed by hand. Crop rotation with sweet potato, beans, corn and other vegetable helps keep the soil rich with nutrients and little irrigation is needed thanks to the deep root system of the cotton. At harvest time the cotton is picked by hand and sorted for colour and quality ready for spinning. The methods used by the native farmers are a model of sustainable agriculture that has been practiced for five thousand years.
Why Organic ?
The intensive methods of conventional cotton farming simply wouldn’t work for native cotton cultivation, which relies on and supports the natural ecosystems of the jungle and desert. The typically small plots of land used are unsuitable for heavy machinery, often without road access. Conventional cotton farming with it’s huge amounts of agri-chemicals has severe environmental consequences. Not only are the soil, water supply and wildlife affected, but tens of thousands of people die each year as a result of pesticide poisoning. The problems are worse in developing countries where the regulations are not as stringent. Farmers and their families suffer devastating health and economic consequences as a result of the pesticide treadmill. This requires them to buy more and more chemicals as weeds and insects develop resistance over time. Organic cotton farming is better for the environment and it also saves lives.
Our partners in Peru work closely with the farmers who grow our cotton, forging close relationships and giving invaluable technical assistance. The local artisan and Indian families grow the cotton on typically small farmyard plots, providing employment in areas of high unemployment. Native cotton cultivation benefits peasant communities and women’s migrant co-operatives. Once harvested our cotton is bought from the farmers at a guaranteed price above market value. This gives farmers and their families a security that they don’t have in the open market. In both the mill and factory we use in Peru, employees enjoy a higher wage than the local average expectation. Men and woman are paid the same and there is no child labour. Working hours are fair with no enforced overtime. Overtime is optional paid at 50% above the normal salary. Employees have the right to join a union, have good redundancy rights and paid maternity leave. Above all workers are respected as individuals whose skills are highly appreciated.
Native Cotton Project History
During the industrial revolution pigmented and native varieties of cotton were abandoned worldwide in favour of the all-white commercial hybrids. Requiring less specialized harvest techniques with generally higher yields, it was cheaper to grow white cotton and dye it. In Peru the government actively encouraged farmers to destroy the native perennial cotton and issued a series of laws in 1931 making it’s cultivation illegal. The concern was that cross-pollination between pigmented and commercial cotton would “contaminate” the white varieties, or introduce harmful insects and diseases to the commercial crop. Native cotton continued to be grown only in secret. In isolated fields and garden plots throughout the north coast where agricultural inspectors rarely ventured, indigenous and peasant farmers preserved a 4,500 year-old farming and textile tradition. Unfortunately much of the original genetic variation had been irreversibly lost, and Peru’s rich biodiversity of pigmented cotton was close to extinction. The Fairtrade Certification Mark is your independent guarantee that the cotton in this product has been certified in accordance with international Fairtrade Standards. The purchase of this product made with Fairtrade Certified Cotton enables the improvement of working and living conditions of Cotton Producers in developing countries and encourages environmental protection. http://protection.www.info.fairtrade.net/ Pakucho (TM) registered by Perunaturtex / James Vreeland. Unimix naturally registered trade mark Text Dr. James Vreeland; Pakucho Cotton cultivation and history of cotton farming.
The intensive methods of conventional cotton farming simply wouldn’t work for native cotton cultivation, which relies on and supports the natural ecosystems of the jungle and desert. The typically small plots of land used are unsuitable for heavy machinery, often without road access.