Here are some answers to questions that we are frequently asked.
We are also happy to respond to any specific requests for additional information about Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), the Aid by Trade Foundation, and our work.

General Questions

  • Why does Cotton made in Africa’s work matter?

    Cotton has traditionally been a key source of income for many families in rural Sub-Saharan Africa who rely on the crop for their livelihoods. However, the earnings from cotton cultivation are too low for smallholder farmers to prosper sufficiently to get out of poverty in the long run. This is where Cotton made in Africa comes in: The goal of the Aid by Trade Foundation initiative is to improve living conditions for smallholder farmers, and their families, over the long term, while also protecting the environment. Instead of relying on donations, it focuses on stimulating market forces and on the principle of helping people to help themselves. Learn more about the impact CmiA is having here.

  • What does the Cotton made in Africa seal stand for?

    Cotton made in Africa cotton from Sub-Saharan Africa is certified as having been produced in a manner that is sustainable for both people and the environment. The initiative helps smallholder farmers improve living conditions for themselves and their families through their own efforts. For example, CmiA cotton is cultivated without child labour, genetically modified seeds, or pesticides prohibited by international regulations. The smallholder farmers are paid regularly and receive training in efficient and sustainable cultivation methods, enabling them to increase their yields and incomes.

  • How exactly do farmers benefit from Cotton made in Africa?

    They benefit in many ways. For example, Cotton made in Africa invests in a comprehensive training programme where participating farmers are trained in efficient and sustainable farming techniques, and they also learn simple business fundamentals that make it easier for them to plan and run their small businesses. This results in improved harvests, which raise families’ incomes and improves their quality of life. The costs of regular monitoring and verification are also met by the Aid by Trade Foundation, instead of being borne by the smallholder farmers.

    In addition, the initiative works alongside with companies of the demand alliance and our local Partners – the cotton companies – to implement projects that directly benefit village communities. These projects address the issues of gender equality, education, health, and environmental protection. In practice, this might include building new schools, renovating existing school infrastructure, supporting women’s groups, constructing boreholes and latrines, or afforestation measures.

  • How is Cotton made in Africa contributing to the fight against child labour?

    Cotton made in Africa’s standard strictly prohibit all child labour outside of a family context, as well as any form of exploitative child labour or child labour that harms a child’s health or development. In this regard, CmiA adheres to conventions 138 and 182 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Child trafficking and forced labour are naturally also prohibited. However, ILO conventions permit children to help out on their parents’ farms as long as they are left with enough time to go to school and to play. Since prohibition is never enough on its own, Cotton made in Africa is also actively combatting child labour through local education work, school projects for children from farming families, and measures designed to increase family incomes.

  • How does Cotton made in Africa stands about the use of pesticides in cotton farming?

    The cotton plant happens to be very attractive to a plethora of pests, exposing smallholder farmers to a significant risk of crop failure. For this reason, Cotton made in Africa generally permits the use of chemical pesticides, with the exception of cultivation under the Cotton made in Africa Organic standard. Nonetheless, Cotton made in Africa strictly regulates pesticide use, prohibiting all pesticides listed in the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (PIC Convention) or in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP Convention). Pesticides classified as highly or extremely hazardous by the World Health Organization (WHO) are also banned (WHO class Ia/b). Besides, pesticide use is kept to a minimum in order to protect people and the environment. In accordance with the economic threshold principle, certain pesticides are only used once a specific level of pest infestation is reached. Farmers are also trained in the proper handling of pesticides and in the effective use of botanical pesticides. The botanical pesticides are plants with insecticidal characteristics that grow near the farmers’ fields and are therefore widely available, cost-effective, and less harmful to people and the environment.

  • What is Cotton made in Africa’s position on genetically modified seeds?

    There is a trend in several African countries towards using transgenic cotton seeds, which cotton producers hope will improve productivity or pest management. This is in clear contravention of the exclusion criteria of both standards – Cotton made in Africa and Cotton made in Africa Organic.

  • How does Cotton made in Africa guarantee its promise to cultivate cotton in accordance with its sustainability criteria?

    Compliance with the social, environmental, and economic criteria of the CmiA standard by cotton farmers, cotton companies, and ginneries is verified on a regular two-year cycle by independent organisations such as EcoCert and AfriCert. In addition, each cotton company is required to report annually on their own compliance with CmiA’s criteria. If the CmiA standards are not met, the offending company is expelled, and the cotton Company and its farmers can no longer trade in any CmiA-licensed cotton.

  • What is the difference between Cotton made in Africa, organic cotton, and Fairtrade?

    All of these initiatives work to offer a sustainable alternative to conventional textile production. They are also united by a desire to operate transparently and to support the people living in regions where cultivation takes place. Organic cotton categorically prohibits the use of inorganic fertilisers or chemical pesticides. Fairtrade’s standards guarantee farmers a minimum price for their cotton and an additional Fairtrade premium. For its part, Cotton made in Africa aims to raise demand for African cotton on international markets in order to improve the environmental, social, and economic living conditions of African smallholder farmers and their families, while protecting the environment in cotton-growing countries. With the launch of the CmiA Organic standard, the Aid by Trade Foundation brought a second standard for sustainable cotton under its umbrella. It supplements the social, environmental, and economic criteria of CmiA with requirements that correspond to internationally recognised guidelines for organic agriculture (EC Standard No. 834/2007 and GOTS).

Contributors and Consumers

  • How can I follow and support Cotton made in Africa’s work?

    Every consumer can make a positive contribution to help both the people behind our clothing and our environment. Each purchase of a Cotton made in Africa-labelled product helps support smallholder farmers and their families in Africa while protecting the environment. You can see an overview of licensed partners selling products that bear the seal of Cotton made in Africa here. If your favourite brand does not yet offer any Cotton made in Africa products, let the brand know. In addition, our CmiA newsletter regularly reports on current topics and gives you a peek behind the curtain of the foundation and the world of cotton farming. You are welcome to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. By liking or sharing posts and publications, you help us bring the living and working conditions of otherwise near-invisible farming families into the public eye. We also maintain our own mailing list for journalists (subscribe here), which you can use to stay up to date on the news. If you are interested in a specific topic, feel free to contact us directly. Our media library offers some communications and marketing materials to get started with here.

  • I work in the textile industry. How can I support Cotton made in Africa’s activity through my own work?

    Anyone who works for a textile company, retailer or fashion brand can partner with Cotton made in Africa to play a significant role in helping to bring profitability and sustainability together for the benefit of all. Companies or traders that want to purchase Cotton made in Africa-certified cotton and make the fashion and textile industry a better place can find all the necessary information in the Becoming a Partner section.

  • How is the quality of Cotton made in Africa cotton?

    In addition to its environmental and ethical advantages, CmiA-certified cotton is also of high quality. This has a lot to do with the fact that it is harvested by hand, which ensures that only completely ripe cotton bolls are collected. As a medium-staple cotton, it has, with a staple length of 26-31mm, relatively long fibres and results in versatile yarns with a yarn count of up to Ne 30. It is made into fabric for use in fashion and home textiles worldwide. The introduction of simple changes also help improve quality, for example replacing plastic harvest sacks with cotton ones, which prevents cotton from being contaminated by plastic residue when being picked.

  • What kinds of textiles bearing the Cotton made in Africa label are available for purchase?

    Pretty much everything, apart from hiking boots! Sustainable CmiA cotton is used in modern T-shirts, jeans, trousers, sweatshirts, and knitwear. It is also fashioned into underwear, sleepwear, socks, bedclothes, bedding, and even mattresses. With each item you purchase, you are supporting the Cotton made in Africa initiative and helping improve the living conditions of millions of people.

  • Where can I buy products with the Cotton made in Africa label?

    Cotton made in Africa is currently partnering with more than 60 companies, including large retailers both in the north and the south such as Otto Group with bonprix, OTTO or Heine, Rewe Group, Tchibo, s.Oliver, and Aldi. Smaller fair fashion brands such as Hiitu, Cooee, and Abaana are also represented. Online retailer like Klingel or workwear retailers like Hakro complete the list. All of these companies sell products bearing the CmiA seal. If your favourite brand is not yet represented, let an employee in one of their shops know or contact the brand directly.

Textile Value Chain

  • How is it possible for sustainable CmiA cotton to be sold at market prices?

    Cotton made in Africa proves that sustainably produced cotton does not automatically need to be more expensive than its conventionally cultivated counterpart. This is because the underlying principle of the initiative is that it works in both directions along the textile value chain. On the one hand, it offers smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa training to make their cotton farming more sustainable for people and the environment. On the other hand, it is building up a global alliance of retailers and fashion brands that explicitly demand and use CmiA cotton. At the end of the textile production process, this alliance pays a modest licensing fee to ATAKORA Fördergesellschaft GmbH. This prevents upcharges levied within the textile value chain from ultimately raising the price of the final product. CmiA also reconciles sustainability with the market economy by reinvesting licensing income in the areas under cultivation, directly benefitting smallholder farmers and their families.

  • How does Cotton made in Africa ensure transparency and traceability in the processing stages?

    There are two basic systems for processing CmiA cotton: Mass Balance (MB) and Hard Identity Preserved (HIP). Both systems guarantee uninterrupted traceability from the field to the ginnery and on to the spinning mill. From that point on, however, they diverge and offer varying degrees of transparency. The Mass Balance system follows the logic of the green power model, i.e. CmiA-certified cotton may be mixed with cotton that originates elsewhere. However, a quantity control is carried out, in which the balance between CmiA cotton and CmiA-labelled yarns at the spinning mill level must be ensured.
    With the HIP system, CmiA cotton can be traced back from finished product to boll in an unbroken chain. The label “Cotton made in Africa Inside” may only be awarded if the product can be proved to contain CmiA-certified cotton that has been processed separately from other cotton. The cultivation and ginning of the cotton are monitored by independent certifying organisations under both systems, and an external online Tracking System is used to trace the cotton throughout the production chain in a transparent way, and in accordance with the initiative’s Chain of Custody Guideline. It is up to the partners to decide on the system – MB or HIP – through which they wish to support the Cotton made in Africa initiative.

  • Why does not every product bearing the Cotton made in Africa label contain certified cotton?

    It makes no difference for the smallholder farmers which system is used further along the suplly chain. The licensing fees are solely derived from the amount of CmiA cotton purchased, regardless of whether it is subsequently processed separately or mixed in with cotton from other origins. The more CmiA-certified cotton is in demand and in use, the greater the revenue generated by the licences and then reinvested in Africa. Since the Mass Balance System allows the certified raw material to be integrated more simply, cheaply, and flexibly, it offers greater responsiveness to client demand and a larger turnover volume at any given level of quality.

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