With Cotton made in Africa textile companies better get to know their raw material


This year’s Stakeholder Conference of Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) was held from September 7 to 8 in Munich and was attended by over 100 experts in the textile value chain from over 20 countries. The two ends of the textile production chain met, with companies and brands like OTTO, Ernsting’s family, Engelbert Strauss, Sportscheck and Jack & Jones at one end and cotton producers from Africa at the other end. They discussed how to achieve sustainability in the field, transparency along the supply chain, and new communication strategies for trading sustainable products.

Helmut Fischer, Head of the Division “Sustainability Standards” at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), opened this year’s annual conference and underlined the importance of Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) as one of the main standards for sustainable cotton. Richard Rogers, Senior Program Officer for Global Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation summed up his work with CmiA and COMPACI which has spanned almost 10 years and said: “We have learned to listen to the smallholders. The Aid by Trade Foundation has done a good job of raising the interest of textile companies and brands in African cotton. My wish for the future would be that companies would pay as much attention to their value chains and, more importantly, to the farmers as they do to the consumers.”
Once again, the conference followed the thread from field to fashion. The increased significance of sustainable cotton and textiles is fuelling the demand for transparency in the supply chain. Cotton made in Africa therefor offers solutions which can be easily put into practice with the help of new technologies and expert knowledge. The systems required to guarantee traceability are already in place and the databases are just waiting to be filled, according to Sanjay Gupta of Direction Software Solutions specialized in IT-based solutions for a transparent value chain. The participants included Anne Pattberg of PwC, expert in business philosophy Dominic Veken, Claudia Gersdorf of Viva con Agua, Dörte Lehne of OTTO, and Jaswinder Bedi, Manager of a vertically integrated textile factory in Uganda, and they all agreed that any sustainability strategy must be translated into a persuasive message which ultimately communicates the product to the customer.
Another item on the agenda was the training for the smallholders – a special service by COMPACI and CmiA. Representatives of the cotton companies and agricultural experts discussed how to cater even more effectively to the needs of the smallholders and concluded that gender-specific course content, new technologies, and the integration of food and cash crops must be central to the CmiA curriculum.

COMPACI (Competitive African Cotton Initiative)
The Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) was founded in 2008 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) on the back of the successful Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) pilot, with a view to subsidizing the income of African cotton farmers. The DEG (Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH) and the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) were instructed to put the plans into action. In the first phase, COMPACI concentrated on Benin, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa and on Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia in the south-east of Africa. Then the initiative was expanded in the second phase to Ghana, Cameroon, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

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