The fact that Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) is committed to social welfare by securing ILO core labor standards, the payment of the minimum wage in the cotton ginning factories, and in fair contracts pays off. The latest CmiA verification report for 2014 shows that the partners in Africa clearly benefit from the initiative. The report is now published and gives an overview of the independent verification controls carried out by AfriCert, EcoCert and Control Union.
“Cotton made in Africa successfully campaigns for international rights to be applied to the people who produce the raw materials for our clothing, namely the cotton farmers and workers in the cotton industry in Africa. Our standard works to the advantage of hundreds of thousands of smallholder families in the cotton growing regions and the environment,” said Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation.
In addition to ecological concerns, such as the general ban of genetically modified seed, to cut down primary forests or the encroachment on conservation areas, CmiA works to promote fundamental social aid. CmiA cotton is grown and processed in the manufacturing companies in Africa – the ginning factories – in conformity with the requirements of the international core labor standards (ILO). The workers in the ginning factories profit from e.g. the right to bargain and their freedom of assembly. The smallholders who have joined the Cotton made in Africa initiative are paid in due time for their crops, as stipulated in the requirements of the CmiA standard. Cotton made in Africa farmers decide at the beginning of every season whether they will grow cotton again and, before they do so, they are informed by the local cotton companies of the anticipated costs and prices. This transparency establishes trust on both sides. The smallholders, particularly those in rural Africa, have precious few reserves. In order to be able to make the necessary investment at the beginning of any given season, the smallholders benefit from pre-financing. Therefore they do not need to take out loans which can push them over the edge financially. The statutory minimum wage is paid at all the ginning factories where the cotton is further treated – and at 16 out of 18 of the cotton companies which process CmiA cotton, the workers are paid above the statutory minimum.
Cotton made in Africa insists on systematic training so as to ensure that many smallholders have the chance to learn efficient and sustainable cotton growing methods. The latest results show that the approach is working: Just 15% of the smallholders in some regions were storing the crop protection containers correctly in 2013 but that figure has now risen to over 50%.
By the end of 2014, over 440,000 smallholders had benefited from the sustainability standards applicable to CmiA and – since the end of last year – to CmiA Organic. They produced over 360,000 tons of raw cotton with the Cotton made in Africa seal of quality. Three more cotton companies have been partners of the CmiA initiative since the start of 2015, extending the reach of Cotton made in Africa to over 650,000 smallholders in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.