CmiA Regional Workshop, 16th and 17th of November 2021 in Lusaka
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our team was not able to interact with its African partners via in-person meetings for a long time. Since travel restrictions were lifted over the summer and vaccination programmes have been taking up speed, we took the chance to invite our partnering English-speaking cotton companies and experts in the field of sustainable agriculture to participate in a regional workshop in Lusaka, Zambia.
Our team left with numerous topics on its agenda. One objective of the meeting was to discuss the requirements of the new CmiA standard, Volume 4, so that participants could get a better understanding of the document. This also included an exchange on the new CmiA Assurance Platform (CAP), which was launched to ensure better data collection and transfer. In addition, new training materials on biodiversity and water stewardship management were presented in order for participants to gain an understanding of the new materials and to provide their feedback on the draft versions. Through this open dialogue, the foundation strives to ensure that we provide partnering cotton companies with easy-to-handle solutions for the needs and challenges of their associated CmiA farmers. In line with this approach, our aim was to collect further topics and challenges to be addressed through additional training materials. We also introduced the idea of providing training materials organised according to the seasonal cycle; this idea was endorsed by the participants.
On behalf of the Zambian Cotton Ginners Association (ZCGA) Emmanuel Mbewe gave an insight into the current extension and farmer training landscape in Zambia.
Another important topic was the exchange on the CmiA Community Cooperation Programme, its impact and way forward. Boaz Ogola from Alliance Ginneries Tanzania, who has already successfully mastered numerous projects with the cotton-growing communities in the Bariadi region, where Alliance is based, presented best practices for involving the local communities and making a project a long-lasting success. At the end of the workshop, all participants agreed that the open dialogue and the sharing of best practices made the workshop a success for everybody, thereby enabling a fruitful exchange beyond the company and country levels.
Wrapping up the packed agenda for the trip, a special highlight for the AbTF team was a field trip to three farmers’ groups associated with Alliance Ginneries Zambia, a partner in the province of Lusaka. “In former years, our whole team regularly visited our African partners to jointly elaborate how to increase the impact we can create for the wellbeing of the farmers and for the protection of nature. Although we fortunately had the opportunity to communicate virtually with the partners during the pandemic, there is simply no substitute for personal contact. Having the chance to meet farmers and talk intensively with Alliance Ginneries Zambia about the project approach was a special moment for me and the whole team after such a long time. We would like to thank the Alliance Ginneries Zambia team for their hospitality and open exchange,” concludes Alexandra Perschau, Head of Standard & Outreach at the Aid by Trade Foundation.
To mitigate any COVID-19-related risks, AbTF provided face masks, and all workshop participants conducted daily Antigen Rapid Tests (ART) using self-test kits provided by AbTF, including during side meetings and the field trip.