Gijs Spoor

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2009


This profile was prepared when Gijs Spoor was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Through a large and coordinated network of producer companies and extension workers, Gijs is putting the control of sophisticated cotton production into the hands of small-farmer owned enterprises. Groups of poor Indian cotton farmers that want to transition to fair trade organic production and be part of Gijs’ socially and environmentally friendly company, Zameen, are vetted and organized into clusters that receive management and professional development training. At the same time, Zameen works through it’s market ambassadors with companies in Europe to ensure producers that there will be a market for their cotton once it passes through their pioneering fair trade plus organic certification process.

Since Zameen is engaged throughout the supply chain, more profits and control can be passed along to the small farmers of cotton. Cotton farming as widely practiced in India today is a resource-intensive and even dangerous endeavor. Zameen farmers, however, are proving that raising the crop to meet fair trade and organic standards is not only profitable, but more healthy for farmers, more equitable for women, and more beneficial to the environment. Given the small scale of their individual operations and Zameen’s commitment to capacity building and transparency, Zameen can guarantee compliance with fair trade standards in ways that large multi-national labels cannot. And farmers themselves can begin to invest in better ingredients and more sustainable practices. Zameen has been able to use these success stories and its international reach to connect with companies and consumers around the world.

Zameen currently works across 250 villages in India and with brands throughout Europe. They focus on fostering values and ensuring that everyone along the supply chain is inspired to ask, “does what I’m doing reaffirm Zameen’s core values of environmental protection and the welfare of rural producers?” When the answer is “no,” Zameen’s team springs into problem solving mode. But when the answer is “yes,” the vital links between producers and consumers and between people and nature are strengthened. Rooted in these values, Zameen has been able to restore the rights of producer communities by focusing on the true value they add to society and the economy while empowering them to take the lead in improving their own wellbeing.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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