Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) was founded in 2005 by Dr. Michael Otto as a social business to protect the environmental and to support smallholder farmers and their families in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2017, a record sum of some 90 million textiles bore the CmiA quality label. More than one million African cotton farmers benefit from every single textile by cooperating with the sustainability initiative.
For the first time, Cotton made in Africa cooperates with more than one million cotton farmers, 17 percent of whom are women. Dr. Michael Otto, founder of CmiA, says delighted: “Africa is close to my heart - both personally and as a businessman, I feel very connected to our neighbouring continent. When I founded the Cotton made in Africa initiative back in 2005, I was very aware about the fact that our future also depends on overcoming the big challenges in Africa. Here, CmiA offers solutions and a chance to positively touch the lives of millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
On average, a CmiA smallholder farmer has a crop area of just under 1.5 hectares. In addition to farmers, more than 11,000 factory workers in the African cotton processing industry are part of the initiative. Around 496,000 metric tons of ginned cotton from Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda have been produced according to the CmiA sustainability criteria in 2017 . The label for sustainable cotton stands for environmental protection and training in sustainable and modern cotton cultivation. The training enables smallholder farmers to improve their working and living conditions through their own efforts. In addition, CmiA certifies the work in the so-termed ginneries, the first step in the further processing of cotton.
In total, CmiA achieved a record amount of around 90 million textiles which bore the CmiA label in 2017. This is a 79 percent increase compared to the previous year. “We achieved a record of about 90 million CmiA labelled textiles. Sustainability is not a niche product anymore”, stresses Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. “Every textile that bears the CmiA label is a step in the right direction. Because every CmiA labelled product protects the environment and supports millions of people in Africa in creating a new perspective for themselves in their home country”, Stridde continues. For each textile wearing the CmiA certificate, a license fee flows back into the project areas. Instead of transferring donations, the initiative has thus chosen a market approach. A total of 36 companies and brands currently order CmiA cotton - among them the Otto Group with Bonprix and OTTO, the Rewe Group, Tchibo, Aldi Süd, Jack & Jones and Asos. Smaller fair fashion brands such as Hiitu and Cooekid from Uganda also use CmiA certified cotton to set an example in the industry.
In many parts of the world cotton is artificially irrigated. On global average, cotton uses more than 2,100 litres of water per kilogram.1 Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) does it differently. CmiA is sustainable cotton from Africa that is cultivated with the exclusive use of rainwater. Through the volume of cotton traded as CmiA in 2017, approximately 63 billion litres of water have been saved – enough to supply about one million people in Germany with water for an entire year. This amount is about the population of Munich.2
“In conventional farming cotton is sometimes watered heavily,” says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. “This can have extreme consequences for our ecosystem and for the availability of water as a vital resource – especially in regions that are already extremely arid. Through rain-fed cultivation, Cotton made in Africa plays a significant role in protecting the environment”, continues Stridde.
In a global comparison, CmiA-certified cotton saves more than 2,100 litres of water per kilogram of cotton, since only rainwater is used in cultivation. This corresponds to about 500 litres of water per T-shirt.
In order to provide additional support for people in the CmiA cotton growing regions, Cotton made in Africa realises projects to foster the availability of clean drinking water, hygiene measures and sanitary facilities. Illness caused by contaminated drinking water is a frequent problem, as Melisiana Machibia reports. The cotton farmer from Tanzania says: “Before the borehole was built, we had to walk 4 kilometres to the nearest water station every day. During the rainy season, we only got water from contaminated water sources and often got ill.”
Germany has plenty of water, and clean drinking water is always available. Many parts of the world however suffer from extreme aridity. Water is a luxurious good and clean drinking water is rarely available. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 30% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to clean drinking water.
 Source: PE International
 Daily water consumption in Germany in 2016 was 123 litres per capita (source: statista).
To promote sustainable cotton cultivation and improve the living conditions of smallholder farmers in Africa, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is providing grant funds of up to 8 million euros over a period of 4 years. This money will be used to finance support measures for 1.2 million smallholder farmers in 16 African countries. These measures will be carried out by the Cotton Expert House Africa (CHA), a nonprofit organization founded by the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and the GFA Consulting Group (GFA).
left to right: Jan Sass, Cotton Expert House Africa | Tina Stridde, Aid by Trade Foundation | Federal Minister Müller
- Credit Florian Gaertner
“Fair fashion needs to be a priority; environmentally-friendly and fairly compensated cotton does not automatically mean expensive clothing. Initiatives like ‘Cotton made in Africa’ are leading the way here. They allow us to jointly establish better prospects for smallholder farmers and their families. Our clothing should be worth at least that much to us,” stated Federal Minister Müller, announcing that the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) will be providing financial support for sustainable cotton cultivation and the improvement of living conditions of smallholder farmers in Africa. The goal of this support is to increase the share of sustainable cotton produced in Africa, and to integrate more sustainable cotton into the textile value chains.
The BMZ has been funding state and private-sector initiatives to promote sustainable cotton production for many years, in part as a basis for developing the African textile industry. This support builds on a long-time partnership with the Aid by Trade Foundation and its sustainability standard, Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA), which has successfully been established on the market as part of the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI). As the largest standard for sustainable cotton from Africa, Cotton made in Africa supports 780,000 smallholder farmers in 10 countries. “The Cotton made in Africa program provides a training system for smallholder farmers and creates an alliance of more than 30 companies and brands that demand certified CmiA cotton for their products,” explains Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. “We are pleased to be building on COMPACI’s success with the Cotton Expert House Africa as our implementation partner in Africa, and we continue to work on strengthening the capacities of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.”
As a social business, the Aid by Trade Foundation directs its income generated from the licensing fees paid by companies and brands back into the African project areas, financing further education measures for smallholder farmers as well as projects supporting village communities and nature conservation. In his announcement on the funding program, Minister Müller emphasized the importance of private-sector participation in the funding, with which a total financial volume of up to 20 million euros is to be realised.
The African cotton and textile industry makes an enormous contribution to economic, social and ecological development in the rural regions of Africa. In Africa, cotton is largely produced by smallholder farmers and serves as a cash crop – about 20 million people are supported directly or indirectly by cotton production.
In the TV-show “Let's Dance”, Motsi Mabuse has been inspiring audiences since 2007. As an ambassador of the initiative Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), the 36-year-old is now campaigning for cotton farmers in Africa. By working with the sustainability initiative, the native South African above all aims to support the women in cotton farming and give them a strong voice in public.
Born and raised in a small village in the South African province, Motsi Mabuse is today a successful professional dancer, juror of several TV formats and owner of her own dance studio. As new face of Cotton made in Africa, she wants to give something back to her home country, to which she still feels very connected: “With my commitment to Cotton made in Africa, I wish to draw attention to the strong personalities in Africa who are at the beginning of the fashion industry. To especially help the female cotton farmers build a better life for themselves through their own efforts is a matter very close to my heart. Instead of donations, Cotton made in Africa is based on the principle of helping people to help themselves and works on eye level with the cotton farmers - a great initiative, which I am thrilled to be part of!”
On the path to more independence and autonomy, women play a key role in cotton farming. Motsi Mabuse, a self-made woman with an energy and passion she normally reserves for the dance floor, wants to build on just this: “I stood on my own two legs early on in life. My mother has always been a role model for me in this regard. I would now like to be such a role model for other women. With Cotton made in Africa, I can draw attention to a very important fact: By promoting and training female cotton farmers in Africa and enabling them to have their own income, I can help improve the quality of life for the entire family. That is why I am working with CmiA to further strengthen the role of women in the society and I am already looking forward to my first trip to Africa to visit these powerful ladies.”
“Motsi Mabuse is a powerful woman who gives strong women in Africa a public voice. Together we look forward to connecting two worlds even more closely - the world of cotton farmers on one hand and the world of consumers on the other,” says a delighted Tina Stridde, Managing Director of CmiA.
Women in cotton farming play a central role for Cotton made in Africa, the biggest label for sustainable cotton from Africa. Through women's cooperatives, CmiA supports women in the cotton-growing regions in gaining more independence, thus strengthening their role in society. In addition, the initiative supports projects intended to make women’s everyday lives easier. In trainings, village communities are sensitized to the issue of gender equality. Important measures, also in Motsi Mabuse’s eyes: “I came to Germany when I was 18 years old and greatly appreciate that I can have my own opinion, earn my own money and be independent. In Africa, where most of my family still lives, the world looks different for women. That’s why I work with CmiA so that I can help to give women in Africa the same opportunities.”
Female smallholder farmers in Africa play a key role in the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative. These strong women work hard to create prospects for themselves and their families in rural regions of Africa, and they need to be true multi-talents – as mothers, smallholder farmers and small entrepreneurs. This is where CmiA comes in, providing training and financial support to give women in the CmiA cotton farming regions equal access to education and economic independence.
The world needs strong women. Strong women, whose self-confidence is steadily growing thanks to a special support program, are a key part of creating sustainable development in rural Africa. This is where Cotton made in Africa is active and cooperates with numerous female smallholder farmers. Female smallholder farmers are responsible for raising children and ensuring the well-being of the entire family, while they also handle the planting and harvesting of the cotton crops. This involves many tasks that require a great deal of strength, and which the Cotton made in Africa initiative picks up on by offering a wide range of support.
For instance, agricultural trainings are specifically tailored to the needs of female smallholder farmers. One of these farmers is Juliyana Kabugho, from Kasese in West Uganda. Since joining Cotton made in Africa and participating in agricultural trainings, she has altered her farming methods considerably. She now cultivates her cotton fields more sustainably and according to ecological, economic and social standards. “Due to my cooperation with CmiA, I have gained knowledge on good agricultural practices,” says Kabugho. “After participating in the training, my cotton yield has increased from 200 to 500 kgs per acre. I am happy that last season I earned enough money by selling my cotton, so that I could start building a house,” she continues.
“By supporting women in the CmiA farming regions, we can help to significantly improve living conditions for female CmiA smallholder farmers, their families and entire communities,” says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. “With our support, female cotton farmers gain more independence, and that directly impacts their families,” explains Stridde.
In the training sessions, Juliyana has learned all about the principles of good agricultural practices – including, amongst others, how to efficiently use fertilizers and how to create organic fertilizers. Since the CmiA standard prohibits artificial irrigation, Juliyana has adjusted her cotton farming schedule to correspond to the rainy season. This so called method of rainfed agriculture was one of the things she also learned in the farmer training. Compared to usage levels worldwide, this method can save more than 2,000 liters of water per kilogram of CmiA cotton.
International Women’s Day on March 8 was officially established about 100 years ago and is being celebrated all over the world today. It is one of many occasions that shed light on the fight for gender equality.
With an exclusive event, Dibella Group Ltd and the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Initiative celebrated their successful partnership at the Heimtextil Trade Fair in Frankfurt last week. On the occasion of their one-year anniversary, Laura Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, has created an exclusive bed linen set made of Cotton made in Africa certified cotton. At the Heimtextil Fair, she personally presented the original to the public for the very first time. The bed linen featuring a zebra pattern was produced by Dibella.
“Laura Chaplin, our partner Dibella, and Cotton made in Africa all have one thing in common: the aim of raising global awareness for sustainable cotton from Africa as a raw material for textiles, thereby giving the people from growing regions a face in international trade,” says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, which funds Cotton made in Africa. “We are taking a stance in the industry - for sustainability and textiles that put a smile on everyone’s face - from smallholder farmers to consumers - with this exclusive bed linen set created by Laura Chaplin,” states a delighted Ralf Hellmann, Managing Director of Dibella Group Ltd, founded in 1986. “We feel it is an honor to be able to present this exclusive bed linen set together with Laura Chaplin and Cotton made in Africa,” continues Hellmann.
Just recently, in October 2017, Laura Chaplin discovered the origin of Cotton made in Africa-certified cotton when travelling to Uganda, one of the 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where the sustainable cotton initiative operates. During her trip, she followed the cotton on its way from the cotton field via the so-called ginnery, where the cotton fibers are separated from the seeds, all the way to the textile production company Fine Spinners in Kampala. “Africa inspired my designs - with its magnificent nature and colors, the earth, the wildlife and the people who I met there,” reports Laura Chaplin upon her return. As a Cotton made in Africa ambassador and designer, she wants to give something back to the local people and nature, which provided her with so much inspiration. Her exclusive bed linen set is launching her mission.
In order to check whether the cotton in the bed linen set by Laura Chaplin is made of Cotton made in Africa, Hellmann and Chaplin checked the original live at the trade fair using the latest scanning method. This method allows them to retrace that the product contains Cotton made in Africa certified cotton, thereby uncovering the source of the bed linen original.
Besides Dibella, Cotton made in Africa currently cooperates with more than 30 textile companies and brands. With their demand for CmiA certified cotton, companies create added value for more than 780,000 smallholder farmers in 10 African countries and protect nature.