United Nations International Women’s Day on 3-08-2014
Strong women are an essential key to sustainable development. The Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Initiative and the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (Compaci) are particularly committed to helping female cotton farmers in the producing regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. This support enables them to take their first steps towards economic independence. In total, currently around 85,000 women benefit from the program. This marks a positive result for this year’s UN International Women’s Day on March 8.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, improving the living conditions of smallholder farmers is directly associated with the advancement of women. “Since women play a major role in providing their families with food, measures to strengthen the role of women always improve the situation of the entire family in addition. Children in particular benefit the most from this,” says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. However, the female farmers have not yet been able to sufficiently benefit from their work on the farm and the fields thus far. As a result, CmiA has joined forces with Compaci to show their commitment to the rights and empowerment of women in the program.The local cotton companies assist in the implementation on the ground.
Women empowerment through training, funding, and raising awarenes
As part of its program for the advancement of women, the CmiA initiative has implemented a range of activities. These include adapting training in sustainable cotton production to the needs of female participants and training female cotton farmers to become lead farmers in order to strengthen their role within the training groups. Employees of the cotton companies receive training in gender equality and women’s representatives are established as a regular contact person in the company. In addition, the female farmers involved receive easier access to loans and their own contracts with the cotton companies to earn their income. Currently 36 women’s cooperatives each with at least 50 members in Côte d’Ivoire benefit from a financial start-up as part of a joint project. Overall, this project curently reaches up to 3,000 women. Roughly 85,000 farmers have so far been trained in sustainable cotton production, of which, approximately 32,300 are now organized in groups, and nearly 3,900 women attend business training.
A model for women empowerment are the more than 500 women’s clubs, each with 25-50 members, which have been established in Zambia. They have an elected governing body and plant cotton as well as other crops together. The women reinvest the income they generate as a group, e.g. in the construction of a warehouse, in setting up a chicken farm, or in education for their children. One of these women is Nelifa Miti from the Chipata region, “Our club helps us to stand on our own two feet, both within the community as well as in the cotton production. I am a widow and have been able to take care of my family on my own – thanks to the club.”
Cooperation with the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI): The successful pilot phase of Cotton made in Africa (2005–2008) convinced the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from the US and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to provide funding in order to expand the program as part of the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) to more than a quarter of a million smallholder farmers as well as boost activities in ten African countries from 2009. The German Investment and Development Company (DEG), the KfW Development Loan Corporation, and the German International Cooperation (GIZ) were commissioned with implementing the program. Besides the Aid by Trade Foundation they are represented in the Management Board of the initiative. Local implementation partners are private cotton companies that are active in Africa.