The origin of our wool
Not far from Kap Horn, a place with barren landscape and high and snowcapped mountains, a place where the wind regularly blows with the strength of a storm, this the place where merino sheep have settled and the origin of the disana wool.
In the very south of South America, in wind-blown Patagonia, on the pastures located in the alpine valleys of the Andes there’s an incredibly wool of high quality growing – organic merino wool for disana.
Only the merino sheep’s fine wool is suitable for our disana babies and kids articles because only wool with a hair diameter of 22 micrometers is soft enough not to scratch babies’ skin. These sheep defy the cold, the wind and the drought. For that reason the southern hemisphere in Australia, New Zealand and in our case South America is offering ideal conditions. The cold and wet conditions in Europa, however, are inappropriate.
Just like all other raw materials, the merino wool we use for our disana babies and kids articles is certified according to strict organic criteria. Our wool articles also wear the GOTS quality label, which promises highest demands regarding ecology and social responsibility.
After all, what is the state of animals’ health in far-away South America? Are the animals kept with caution and how is the handling in the process of shearing? On our journey through Patagonia, we visited the farms and laundry facilities for our disana wool. This helped us to gain an own impression of the country and the people, the nature’s rough beauty and the sheep’s welfare.
As a matter of fact the sheep that give the disana merino wool are fine. They are kept very well indeed. Despite of extensively sheep breeding, only 2 sheep come on a hectare of land. Given the fact that there are huge, uninhabited areas, it is not much of a surprise. Once in a while you have the chance to see a sheep between the bushes. The sheep are only herd together and brought to large-sized pens when it’s time for shearing and being relieved from the winter fur. It is hard work for both human and animal. However no harsh words and no rush. The farmers work quietly and professional to keep the animals’ stress level as low as possible. After the shearing the sheep are brought to another pen, where they’re standing closely crowded together. The sheep are now 4-5Kg lighter than before and keep each other warm this way to prevent a thermal shock. After that the sheep are back to the pasture.
The heavily criticized “Mulesing” is also not practiced in South America, a method that involves a bloody cut into the sheep’s anus. This process is used to protect the sheep from maggot infestation caused by a special fly species. There is not such a fly in South America thanks to the permanent strong wind in Patagonia.
Our farms are monitored and certified by accrediting certification institutions according to the Global Organic Textiles Standard, GOTS. Disana has been the first company to gain the quality label GOTS and the even stricter label BEST for their products.
In a world with global goods movements we bear responsibility also beyond our own noses. And we also check the origin of our raw materials at the other end of the world if it seems to be necessary.
The origin of our cotton
The two home countries for our disana organic cotton couldn’t be more different.
There is Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian Republic that boarders China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Up there on over 3000 meter the summer months are short and extremely hot, winter is freezing cold and long.
The other home country of our cotton is Uganda, in the heart of Africa. Close to the equator the land is fertile, rain is watering the fields naturally and harvests can be done all year.
In both countries we work closely together with our partners Cotonea and the Swiss organisation for developing work Helvetas that run cotton projects from which we gain our organic cotton for disana products.
Cotonea is a partner on-site that supports the farmers with the cultivation of their crops, guarantees the purchase of a large quantity of organic cotton and secures the life of hundreds of small-sized family run farms.
If you want to go to Kyrgyzstan you have to travel far. Even by airplane it’ll take you about 2 days to travel from Germany to the capital Bischkek and from there the journey continues on curvy routes until you reach Jalalabad in the country’s south. On pass roads with a height of 3.500 meters you cross the Tienshan, a mountain range which towers steeply and rugged over 5.000 meters. Kyrgyzstan is the country of high passes and deep canyons.
Kyrgyzstan – correct: the Kyrgyz Republic – has about 6.2 million inhabitants and has established its independency with the Soviet union’s resolution in 1991. Back then the small farms split up into kolkhozes. To make a living the people had to reorganise themselves. Since 2004 Helvetas is supporting them. However still more than a third of the people live below the poverty line.
The climate in Kyrgyzstan is extreme. It is characterised by short, dry and continental hot summers and by long, cold winters. Spring is short with a lot of rain and the snow melting that is taking place at the same time. The daily temperature fluctuations are immense. In the country’s south, the growing region of our cotton temperatures of +45°c are measured in the summertime, while in the wintertime temperatures can fall down to -18°C. That’s the vegetation period – also for cotton – only very short.
Nevertheless the people have learned to deal with such a climate and their agricultural knowledge is adjusted to such extreme circumstances. Thus farms from the Cotonea project often reach the highest yields per hectare – worldwide.
Uganda, official name Republic of Uganda is located at the equator and boards south Sudan in the north, Kenia in the east, Tanzania in the south, Rwanda in the south-west and the Democratic Republic of Kongo in the west. The boarders to Kenya and Tanzania partly run through the Lake Victoria. Capital and largest city in Uganda is Kampala. The country that has a nominal gross national product of about 640 US-$ per capita a year is one of the poorest countries in the world.
The average age is 15 years which makes it the youngest nation in the world. Not long ago, in the 1990s a cruel civil war had raged that killed an entire generation of Ugandans.
The fields for our organic cotton are in the country’s north, near the town Gulu. In total 10.000 people live and work for the farming project run by Cotonea.
Cotonea helps the often very young farmers to find a new perspective. The land is fertile and is watered naturally by rain. Close to the equator several harvests of various crops can be gained a year. Therefore an essential part of this farming project is the crop rotation.
Field crops such as sesame, chillies, sunflower seeds, beans, and of course cotton is grown in rotation. In doing so the organic cotton is the money maker. The farmers are using the money primarily for the health and education of their children. Because the children are the Ugandans’ pride and joy and all hopes for a better future lay on the upcoming generations of young people.
Your can read more about the origin of our disana organic cotton and about the project Cotonea by visiting www.cotonea.de .