Promoting and supporting female cotton farmers in rural Africa is a key responsibility for Cotton made in Africa. 18 percent of all farmers participating in the CmiA programme are women. One of these women is Fanta Soro. She is 39 years old, married, and has seven children, all of whom are in school. Fanta has been working with Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) since 2019. Before turning to cotton farming, she grew vegetables.
Like other smallholder farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, Fanta cultivates sustainable CmiA cotton and receives training in business and agriculture, provided by CmiA in close collaboration with the local cotton association Compagnie Ivoirienne de Coton (COIC). In one of her first training sessions, Fanta learnt how and when to prepare her fields and how to sow the cotton seeds. “To optimise crop density, it is important to avoid sowing too many or too few cotton seeds. With this knowledge, I was able to plant 0.75 hectares in my first season”, Fanta says with pride. Other sessions addressed crucial topics like the responsible use of fertiliser and pesticides. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are not allowed to work with pesticides, with young adults from the village being hired for this purpose in their stead. Before starting these jobs, they receive the necessary training, for example learning to use pesticides only once an infestation reaches a certain level and to wear suitable protective equipment when applying the chemicals.
Working with agricultural adviser Coulibali Nansou from COIC, Fanta has already planned out the next growing season. “I am very thankful for the training and the great support. I am in a much better position to work my land, and I am confident that I will be able to increase my yields. I also want to start planting vegetables again and am planning to expand my cotton fields next season with the help of my husband. Other women from my village now want to start growing cotton, too, so that they can send their children to school like I can”, she reports.
The village Fanta lives in also benefits from a well, constructed by the cotton association COIC: “In the past, we had to leave the village very early in the morning to fetch water from far-away rivers. That was largely a job for women and children, and we often spent most of the day searching for water. This prevented many children from attending school. Now that we have a well in the village, we only need to spend a few minutes to get clean drinking water and can apply the remaining time elsewhere. One of the best things about the new well is that many more children now get to go to school”, Fanta enthuses.
Every item bearing the Cotton made in Africa label helps protect the environment and support people in cotton growing regions. Consumers can recognise these textiles through the Cotton made in Africa label. In 2019, 63 retailer and fashion brands produced around 125 million CmiA-labelled items. Around 137 textile producers in 22 countries throughout the world, including eight in Africa, are working with CmiA-verified cotton from Africa. A total of 593,000 tonnes of ginned cotton was verified through the Cotton made in Africa standard in 2019.