Castor oil is a moisturising component in a variety of Dr.Hauschka Skin Care products and forms the basis of Dr.Hauschka Bath Essences. When WALA (producers of Dr. Hauschka) decided to transition to certified organic castor oil, it was discovered that this raw material was not available in organic quality anywhere in the world. But this could be changed, WALA raw materials purchaser Christine Ellinger said to herself in 2005, and began activating her contacts to organic farmers in India and to Satvik, an Indian non-governmental organisation (NGO).
A motivated group of ecologically minded Indian farmers founded a NGO called Satvik in 1995. Its initial aim was to promote rain-fed farming, a method suited to the ecology of the arid Kutch region of northern India. After a strong earthquake killed at least 20,000 people in this district in 2001 and many survivors were struggling to maintain their livelihoods, it became all the more important to switch over to a method of farming that is less cost intensive and at the same time preserves or even improves soil fertility. Satvik’s efforts became more important than ever.
The first certified organic castor oil
When Christine Ellinger, an ecotrophologist and agricultural scientist, approached Satvik with her question about organic castor oil in 2005, she came at exactly the right time. The farmers were already following organic criteria in their production, but had not yet received official organic certification. By providing financial support for Satvik’s advisory function as well as the benefit of WALA’s many years of experience, the company was able to help obtain organic certification for the entire castor oil plant cultivation and processing chain from the Institute for Market Ecology (IMO). This independent certification body tests ecological aspects of products, agriculture, processing, import and commerce for compliance with EU organic regulations. 2005 marked the beginning of a longstanding partnership that led to the world première of certified organic castor oil.
My dream is to process only organically cultivated castor beans
Nanalal Satra, owner and managing director of Castor Products Company in Nandgam in India’s Kutch district, has been in contact with WALA since 2005. Christine Ellinger’s enquiry prompted Satvik to initiate contact between WALA and Nanalal Satra. Since 2007, his oil pressing facility has been producing cold-pressed castor oil from the organically cultivated castor beans that he purchases from organically certified farms in the region – for a price that is 15 to 18 percent higher than that of conventionally grown castor beans. He was so enthusiastic about the organic production methods that in 2009 he set up another production line, certified by IMO, which is used exclusively for the production of organically certified castor oil. Nanalal Satra has used the increased revenues from the sales of organic castor oil to set up recreation rooms for his workers, to support farmers in transitioning to organic cultivation and receiving certification, and to make it possible for the farmers to cook using biogas. Fifty farmers have already received financing for biogas systems – which provide a family with one cow enough fuel to cook all their meals. In the arid, almost treeless Kutch region, this is a blessing.
Financial independence as a main goal
Today the agricultural land of a good 140 families has been organically certified. They grow around 277 tons of castor beans on approximately 1,175 hectares of land – ensuring a regular source of supplementary income. Nanalal Satra’s oil production of 60 tons per year now far exceeds the demand from WALA, allowing him to cooperate with several different trading partners. “This is in our interest as well”, says Christine Ellinger. After all, a major goal is to encourage and support industries in structurally disadvantaged areas until they become stabile and self-sustaining – and help the people of the region to achieve financial independence and improved social conditions. In addition to business advice, the NGO also runs health and education programmes. When Christine Ellinger visits, she also pays attention to the development of the community. The last time she was there, Nanalal Satra proudly showed her the improved recreational rooms for his employees. Christine Ellinger’s happiness is written on her face. Encounters between different cultures can bear a variety of fruits.
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