Diaconia: Transforming people’s lives and the fashion industry with organic cotton


This year, C&A Foundation celebrates five years of making fashion a force for good by bringing together beneficiaries, allies and changemakers as part of our broader vision to unite the industry and set the stage for a profound industry transformation. Through this story series, we highlight five of our partners that have been with us on this journey, share our ideals and work with courage and conviction every single day to be true and powerful forces for good. 


Waneska Bonfim, General Coordinator at Diaconia spoke to us at length about how Diaconia’s mission of promoting the social inclusion of marginalised people shines through in the organisation’s work to defend civil rights, promote public policy and pursue gender justice. Diaconia supports and uses organic farming to build nutritional security and stable communities of farming families. The result is a symbiotic relationship between the community and nature, as well as a more favourable and harmonious way of farming within the more semi-arid regions of Brazil. 

Speaking about her own role at Diaconia, Bonfim says, “The thing I’m proudest of in the work we do here at this organisation is the opportunity to serve others and to do projects that help to transform people’s lives and improve their living conditions.” 

C&A Foundation currently supports Diaconia’s ‘Cotton in Organic Farming Consortium’ initiatives to specifically making the cotton production more sustainable.  

One year into the project, she tells us that local farmers have already been able to supplement their incomes by selling poison/chemical-free cotton, and in so doing, they have also been able to consume the organic foods that are grown with the cotton using the intercropping method. 

Reflecting on the collaboration with C&A Foundation, Bonfim says, “Our partnership with the C&A Foundation has been most important to Diaconia. It has strengthened our organisation while also validating the principle and goal of organic farming. This partnership gives a boost to the ideas and strategies to scale our models from other states for higher impact.” 


A perfectly orchestrated effort  

The Growing Cotton in Organic Intercropping Systems project, in partnership with C&A Foundation, has not been the work of the Diaconia organisation alone – it has also involved other institutions. This has been a particularly challenging, yet important and well-resourced campaign, Bonfim says. The network strives to ensure a common set of standard methodologies, but each territory and each organisation also have their own processes.  

On the partnership, she elaborates that “We’ve got this entire group to think, move and act together, adopting similar principles and methodologies to ensure that our intervention is as close as possible to the original project proposal, whilst also respecting the unique identity of each territory and each institution involved in the process.” 


Sustainable results first 

To maximize impact on the communities and ensure success, Diaconia’s strategy has been to discuss what they are doing with local organisations and with the people in these territories, whether they’re in the country or in cities. This validates their intervention while also ensuring transparency of the process – both crucial elements to seeing success in this work. 

“Discussing our ideas, listening to the community’s concerns and laying out what our capabilities and limitations are have made the people in these different places more receptive to what we have to offer and it has made us more efficient in achieving our goals and yielding better results,” Bonfim explains. 

As a result, when they expand these farming families’ horizons, they don’t just place them in a position of greater food or nutritional security. It also creates a more stable cotton production for the farmers, which enables them to gain access to other financial resources. 


Personal highlights and wins 

When asked about her most memorable moments over the past year, she recounts the coming together of the project’s advisory committees with pride. She says, “That was a key moment, because it showed how an intervention as bold and challenging as this one can be designed by working together as a team. The high level of women participation was remarkable. In my opinion, it’s always important to realise not only what’s within our reach but also what the challenges are and where we need to improve. That’s why the committee meetings were crucial.” 

Finally, Bonfim underlines that “We all have important work to do within a business chain like this, regardless of where we happen to be within it. A key source of support that fosters daily learning and causes me to reconsider my own practises is being able to manage and coordinate an organisation that’s in charge of a project like this, looking out for the women who are growing organic cotton and for the role that they play in this cycle as well as looking to see how my own work might relate to theirs.”