The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were set up by the United Nations in 2015 to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all - on an economic, social and environmental level. They address the global challenges we face and define goals to fight poverty, inequality, the effects of climate change and environmental degradation by 2030, and to bring peace, justice and more prosperity to all. The work of Cotton made in Africa also has a direct influence on the Sustainable Development Goals. To get to more about about the impact Cotton made in Africa, in close cooperation with partners, has on achieving the goals, please scroll down.
SDG 1 No Poverty: Reducing poverty is a central concern of CmiA. Through trainings, smallholder cotton farmers can improve their farming practices. This aims at enabling them to generate higher yields and thus higher income. Following its core principle 'aid by trade', Cotton made in Africa establishes sustainable trade relations with smallholder farmers in Africa on the one hand and with brands and textile companies worldwide on the other. As a social business, all partners benefit - especially the currently more than one million smallholders and their families who profit from trainings in efficient and sustainable cotton business techniques as well as from further projects.
SDG 2 Zero Hunger: An alliance of textile companies and brands built up by CmiA specifically demands for CmiA cotton and pays a nominal license fee back to CmiA. With income from licensing fees, CmiA trains smallholder farmers in the sustainable and efficient management of their fields. According to the World Economic Forum, economic growth in the agricultural sector has an eleven times more positive impact on poverty reduction than growth in other areas. Investing in sustainable farming methods consequentlly offers great potential for creating rural prospects, especially for young people, and fighting hunger. The rotation between food crops with cash crops such as cotton is another element to fight hunger. To foster improvement in this area, CmiA will be one of five pilots to test the Food Security Standard developed by Welthungerhilfe, WWF and ZEF.
SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing: The CmiA standard aims to protect the health and wellbeing of smallholder farmers as well as factory workers in the cotton ginneries, the first step of processing cotton. This includes the prohibition of particularly dangerous pesticides for farmers and regular working hours for factory workers.
Additionally, CmiA initiates projects that give access to clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation. These so-called WASH projects help to prevent diseases and are essential when it comes to increasing health and well-being in the rural areas of cotton farming in Africa with limited access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Girls in particular usually have to walk long distances to get to the next borehole. These projects are part of the CmiA Community Cooperation Program.
SDG 4 Quality Education: Training for small-scale farmers in simple business management skills as well as modern and efficient agricultural knowledge help farmers help themselves and their families. In order to especially protect children in the cotton-growing areas and to defend their rights, CmiA initiates projects that improve the school infrastructure in rural areas and draws attention to the importance of education through special awareness-raising activities.
SDG 5 Gender Equality: Especially women are true multitalents when it comes to cultivating the cotton fields whilst taking care of their whole family's well-being. Against this background, CmiA is committed to supporting women in their role in society and sensitize for their rights. In addition to the principles set out in the standard criteria, CmiA initiates various activities to implement gender equality: The training in the sustainable cultivation of cotton are adjusted to the needs of female participants and CmiA helps women to become so-called Lead Farmers for their training groups, which further strengthens their position as role model for others. Special projects under the CmiA Community Cooperation Program further support women and generate additional sources of income. The cotton companies' employees receive trainings on gender equality and establish female representatives as permanent contact persons within the company.
SDG 6 Clean Water: Water is a precious good. In many parts of the world, access to clean drinking water is an absolute exception. Droughts, especially in Southern Africa, highlight the importance of water for people and nature. Cotton is artificially irrigated in many parts of the world. Not however with Cotton made in Africa. CmiA cotton is rain-fed only and 'saves' over 500 liters of water per shirt compared to the global average. The CmiA standard also requires the protection of water sources from contamination by pesticides and fertilizers. Under the CmiA Community Cooperation Program, Cotton made in Africa supports various projects that improve access to clean drinking water in cotton-growing regions and rebuild sanitary facilities, for example in schools. This has a positive effect on the general health situation, because diarrheal diseases are significantly reduced. Women and girls who provide water to their families benefit in particular, as they are traditionally responsible for supplying their homes with water.
SDG 8 Decent Work: According to the CmiA standard, the ILO core labor standards must be met to ensure decent work for smallholder farmers as well as for workers in the cotton ginning factories.
SDG 12 Responsible Consumption: More and more people are wondering where their clothes come from, who produced them and under which conditions. Consumers' interest in getting to know the people and the stories behind our products is rising. Through its product label and communication, CmiA gives consumers the possibility to get to more about the work and people and the origin of our clothes.
SDG 13 Climate Action: The impact of climate change in the face of extreme weather and environmental disasters is becoming increasingly clear and perceptible. Greenhouse gas emissions have increased significantly in recent years. Cotton made in Africa works against climat change. CmiA cotton causes up to 40% less greenhouse gas emissions for one kilogram of cotton than conventional cotton. This equals the amount of cotton needed for 4 shirts. Active climate protection measures taken were i.a. tree planting actions (for organic pesticides - one measure, multiple effects). Training that teaches adapted agricultural techniques to smallholder farmers gives them the knowledge they need to adapt their cultivation methods and make their crops more resilient.
SDG 15 Life on Land: CmiA is actively involved in the protection of soil and biodiversity through various agri-technical measures. By default, it prohibits the intervention in primary forests and protected areas.
SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals: Cooperation is an important key to sustainable textile production. This is why Cotton made in Africa is part of a large network of non-governmental and governmental organizations, textile companies and small fashion brands. Supporting partners include the WWF, Welthungerhilfe, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), OTTO, Tchibo, the Rewe Group, and many more. By establishing a demand alliance for CmiA cotton, CmiA creates partnerships for a sustainable future in the textile industry.
Read more about the criteria and requirements of the CmiA standard for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals here.
Wearing a bathrobe to raise awareness for cotton farmers in Africa? Precisely! In the face of climate crises, tons of microplastic polluting the oceans and inhuman working conditions for people in the cultivating regions of cotton, coffee, rice and other commodities, it’s easy to get frustrated and think that we as individuals cannot change this. But we can. Cotton made in Africa shows how, and in a positive way – with the #BathrobeChallenge. Because the good thing is: Everybody can do something to change the world for the better. And sometimes, doing good can be easy! How so?
With the #BathrobeChallenge, CmiA sends a clear message: Everybody who joins in by wearing a bathrobe in public is taking a stand for the more than one million African cotton farmers who collaborate with CmiA. Mary Mbambu is one of them. Through Cotton made in Africa, she and her husband Baluku have participated in farmer trainings – and learned a lot about sustainable cultivation methods and gender equality. When talking to Mary about her experiences and knowledge gained through the trainings, one thing came directly to her mind: “We share the tasks”, she reports. “When I‘m not well, Baluku cooks for the kids or attends to other tasks that traditionally rather fall to women. We also talk about how we spend our money. For me, it was for example very important to cultivate food crops, next to cotton, to provide for our family. I could carry the argument home and now we even have a small pantry for our harvest.” Breaking with traditional gender roles and learning more about gender equality has made Mary something of a role model in her community. “Other women often approach me and ask how I learned so much”, she reports. “Then I tell them that the trainings in mixed training groups help me.”
Together with its partners and friends such as OTTO, Tchibo, WWF or Welthungerhilfe, CmiA is inviting everybody to join the #BathrobeChallenge and discover the world behind our textiles. The bathrobe has been chosen as a strong symbol for this mission as it exemplifies how much cotton is used in our clothes. As a fashion item however, the bathrobe is rarely present in public – just like the faces and stories of African cotton farmers like Mary. With the #BathrobeChallenge, CmiA wants to give African cotton farmers the recognition they deserve in international trade and give a positive, recognizable "face" to a hitherto anonymous mass product - cotton. When we met Mary at her home in Western Uganda and talked about the fun social media campaign we built around the bathrobe, she wanted to be a part of it and immediately put on a bathrobe - and her amazing smile.
Through partnering with CmiA, farmers can take part in a training programme and learn about efficient and sustainable agricultural as well as business methods, gender equality and the importance of stopping child labour. These trainings make it easier for farmers to protect nature and improve their living and working conditions themselves. Consumers can easily choose to support African cotton farmers like Mary and Baluku – and not just by wearing a bathrobe and spreading the word on sustainable cotton. Products that support the initiative wear a small red Cotton made in Africa label. This makes them easy to recognise and allows consumers to opt for products that make them smile – and share this smile with farmers and nature. A wide range of brands and retailers partner with CmiA and use CmiA certified cotton in their production. For a full list of partners, click here.
Discover more about the #BathrobeChallenge at www.bathrobechallenge.com
Cotton is a popular plant – not just with people but also with insects. But not all insects are good for the cotton plants. As pests, they can ruin entire yields and thereby the income of a family. This worries cotton farmers like Thomas Bwambale from Uganda. Through partnering with Cotton made in Africa and participating in agricultural trainings however, he has learned that it is not always necessary to use toxic pesticides to protect his precious yields from pests.
Traditionally, cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa apply pesticides according to the calendar. They decide to spray chemical plant protection products in regular intervals, regardless of the actual pest infestation and according need for protection on the field - at the expense of the farmers’ budget, their health and their environment.
The CmiA standard aims at schooling cotton farmers to foster the restricted and responsible use of pesticides. According to the so-called threshold principle, it is first determined if the yields are threatened by pests through examining how densely the field is infested. This is easily done by counting on a sample basis how many harmful insects there can be found on the plants. Thomas Bwambale uses this method: “In the farmer trainings, I was shown how to count pests, how to tell them apart from beneficiaries and how to know when it‘s really necessary to use pesticides.“ As a simple tool, the thresholds are being measured in pictograms that give famers an easy orientation. Bwambale tells us about the effectiveness of the sensitisation in handling pesticides: “Through the trainings, I have learnt that pesticides are bad for the environment and my soil and I now only use them when there is a concerning amount of pest infestation on my field”, reports the farmer. “Today, I do not spray regularly, but only when it is really needed”, he continues. Through the conscious use of pesticides, the smallholder farmers can save a significant amount of money and at the same time protect the environment, their health and their soils.
As the application of pesticides poses a risk for the environment as well as for farmers’ health, the Cotton made in Africa standard strictly excludes the use of pesticides classified as dangerous by international conventions.1 Pregnant or nursing mothers, minors, ill or inexperienced people are forbidden to work with pesticides for their own protection. Moreover, farmers like Thomas Bwambale learn how they can adequately protect themselves when spraying and which gentle, environmentally friendly and more sustainable alternatives can be used for pest control. Amongst others, this comprises measures such as organic pesticides or molasses traps.
1) Pesticides regulated by the Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention or which the WHO has ranked as extremely or highly hazardous (class Ia and Ib) may not be used. For their own safety, pregnant women, nursing mothers, sick people, children, and untrained and/or inexperienced persons are prohibited from working with pesticides.
To raise awareness for the world behind our textiles and share stories about the farmers that produce the raw material for our clothes with a wide audience of consumers, Cotton made in Africa has started the #BathrobeChallenge. It is a fun social media campaign built around the bathrobe as a strong symbol for farmers such as Juliet Kabugho.
Juliet and her husband are proud cotton farmers and parents to five children – two big tasks for both of them. Through agricultural, social and business trainings, she and her husband have learned more about sustainable and efficient cotton production. This puts them in the position to improve their working and living conditions themselves. Ever since they participated in farmer trainings, they have learnt to pull together. “When I joined the farmer training programme, my life changed”, says Juliet. She explains: “Through the gender training, my husband and I have learned about the importance of planning our farming activities together – one of the reasons our cotton yields and our income have improved. And my husband now helps me with household duties like fetching water and firewood.” Juliet has also learnt about sustainable agricultural and business methods, which have made it easier for her to efficiently cultivate her field, increase her yields, plan and budget accordingly. “We can now afford school fees, so my children are now all going to school”, she reports proudly. “And we have also learnt why Cotton made in Africa does not allow child labour and why it is so important to send our children to school.”
You want to support farmers such as Juliet? Wear your bathrobe to join the fun and raise awareness for the impact we all can have by choosing Cotton made in Africa labelled textiles! Discover more on www.bathrobechallenge.com
One of Cotton made in Africa‘s key tasks is supporting female cotton farmers in rural Africa. 17% of all farmers participating in the CmiA program are women. Biira Lawuniyeda is one of them. As smallholder farmer from western Uganda, she participates in the CmiA program, cultivates sustainable CmiA cotton and receives training in both business and agricultural practices. For Biira, learning how to manage her farm like a small business was important. In the so-called Farmer Business Schools, she has learned how to assess market and production risks and how to reasonably manage her budget and savings: “I am now able to pay school fees for my children and I have also started a retail business from the incomes I obtained from cotton sales”, she reports. For Biira and other female cotton farmers in rural Africa it is a big step to learn how to manage a farm efficiently and be able to invest income from cotton sales on their own. Besides their hard work in the fields, women often take care of the children and the general welfare of the entire family. But learning about new agricultural and even business methods was not part of their curriculum before. In the trainings, Biira has also learned how to best cultivate her field and increase her yields through new methods: “The farmer training program has helped me increase my cotton yield”, she reports happily. She explains that ever since using her new skills on the field, she is receiving up to twice as much yield as before.
For CmiA, supporting women in their daily work and life means supporting them in their position as role models for other women as they are real multi-talents on the farm, in the cotton business and in the family. Behind the scenes they are a driving force when it comes to sustainable improvements for the whole community. Against this backdrop, CmiA has set up a special program for women in the cotton farming business. In addition to the set of gender-related sustainability criteria ensured by the CmiA standard, trainings are tailored to the particular needs of and challenges for female farmers. The CmiA program also entails the initiation of female working groups, gender equality trainings in the rural communities and the support of small start-ups led by women. All this allows women to stand up in the community as proud female cotton farmers and in the end enables them to improve their living conditions and those of their families on their own. Here you can read more about how CmiA supports women.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, women like Juliyana Kabugho have to be true multi-talents. While they are usually in charge of their children’s upbringing and the wellbeing of their families, they also take care of planting and harvesting cotton. Many tasks that demand a lot of energy. This is where Cotton made in Africa comes in and offers support. For instance, through agricultural trainings that are adapted especially to female farmers’ needs. “Due to my cooperation with CmiA, I have gained knowledge on good agricultural practices”, Juliyana rejoices. For her, this has meant considerable improvements: “My cotton yield has increased from 200 to 500 kgs per acre”, she tells us.
Through the CmiA-trainings, participating farmers can continuously and sustainably improve their cotton growing skills. This allows them to cultivate their fields in a manner that is protecting both the people and the environment, which can ultimately allow farmers to gain higher crop yields and ameliorate their living conditions. This is also what Juliyana Kabugho experienced.
In the trainings, Juliyana has learned everything about the principles of good agricultural practices – including, amongst others, how to efficiently use fertilizers and how to create bio-fertilisers. As the CmiA Standard excludes artificial irrigation, Juliyana solely uses rainwater to grow her cotton. The precise methods of this so-called rainfed irrigation are also taught in the farmer trainings. This way, Juliyana now knows how to successfully farm her field and generate good yields without using artificial irrigation.
On top of that, the female farmer from Uganda has learned that pesticides are bad for both humans and the environment – and that the CmiA-criteria, if at all, only allow the use of particular pesticides under strict constrictions. She now knows why it is so important that pregnant or nursing women keep their distance from pesticides. And that it is vital to handle pesticides professionally and only whilst wearing protective clothing to protect the farmers’ health. Juliyana can also increasingly forego the use of artificial pesticides, having learned how to correctly determine the necessity for spraying and the use of organic alternatives.
Thanks to participating in the Cotton made in Africa program and the corresponding agricultural trainings, Juliyana Kabugho has altered her cultivation methods considerably. She now farms her cotton fields more sustainably and with regard to ecologic, economic and social aspects. This way, she could more than double her cotton yields and improve her living conditions, by herself. “I am happy that last season I earned enough money by selling my cotton, so that I could start building a house”, reports Juliyana.