When Loft Mpili started to farm cotton according to the Cotton made in Africa criteria, he changed quite a few things on his small farm in Moono, Zambia. One of them was the way he handles pests. “I have been trained on integrated pest management (IPM) and the use of bio- pesticides”, he reports. “This has helped me conserve more beneficial insects on my fields and it’s also very good for my health. I do not get any headaches from spraying bio-pesticides and the empty containers are less harmful to the environment.” Loft is 21 years old and besides cotton, he also grows other crops and keeps and sells livestock.
A sustainable brand of kids clothing from Uganda, Abaana designs and produces beautiful clothing out of Cotton made in Africa. Founded by three moms, Abaana is a colourful young label with a true passion for sustainability. The label produces locally in Uganda and closely collaborates with artisans, producers, and Cotton made in Africa. This ensures a truly sustainable supply chain. Shop Abaana here.
Who is behind the label Abaana?
Behind Abaana are Rebeca, Rachel and Caroline. We are practically from all over the world which is wonderful as this diversity is important when sharing ideas and creativity.
Where did you meet?
We met at a baby playgroup in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. Somehow, it is fun to think we met thanks to our kids.
Why did you want to create your own label called Abaana?
Having left our full-time jobs to concentrate on our families, we first thought about setting up our own business. We kept on talking about the question how to get back to work without having to miss out seeing our children grow older. This is how we came up with the idea of creating our own business which would allow us the flexibility to combine family and work.
In addition to that we noticed that we tended to buy kids clothing abroad. That was the time we figured out that there was a need for nice, comfortable and affordable kids clothing made out of cotton. Simultaneously, Uganda was experiencing a revival of its own textile industry - from field to fashion. These two circumstances led to our idea to start a children’s clothing line right here in Uganda.
Having come up with the idea of setting up a social business linked to children’s clothing and accessories, we focused on the concept of designing products that are natural, ethical and fun. Discovering that Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) is already actively working in Uganda was at that time the missing piece in our wish of ensuring a sustainable supply chain within the country.
How did you come up with the name Abaana?
We are proud to carry the “Made in Uganda” label and aim to promote Ugandan cotton and support local workers. That is why we asked our Ugandan friends to brainstorm with us which name could best represent our brand in Luganda, one of the languages spoken here, that embodies fun, happiness and children. At the end, we found the ideal brand name for us: “Children - Abaana”.
What would you like to express with the brand?
Essentially, we want to express that we care for the clothes we make because we care for the users - we design them as if they were for our own children - and at the same time we care about how these clothes are made: the social and ecological footprint we leave as a business.
We are authentic. And we believe that our brand expresses exactly this as well because we truly like to take care of all the details along our supply chain: from the farmers who are growing the cotton in Uganda to the packaging of our products. Part of the supply chain are also our clients who are purchasing the clothes and thereby supporting a fantastic homegrown product that is fair to its producers and good to the environment.
All our designs are hand-drawn by ourselves and each drawing is brought to life with an accompanying story. Our inspiration comes from all the vibrant and colourful surroundings that make it so easy to be creative in this beautiful country with its nature and people.
Why are sustainable resources important for you?
We understand sustainability as endurance. Not only endurance of our natural resources but also endurance of work and income.
The sustainability of natural resources is one of Abaana’s core values. We strive for a minimal environmental footprint and therefore support environmentally friendly cotton cultivation methods by using CmiA cotton, design clothes that last longer and ensure that the packaging of our products can be reused.
As a social business, we strive to provide a sustainable income for all people involved because if everybody profits we can offer long-term economic growth. As a start-up, this is important for us as one of our goals is to help create fair and sustainable jobs.
Why did you choose to work with Cotton made in Africa?
Knowing that our support to CmiA goes directly back to the smallholder cotton farmers and helps them to grow their business sustainably was the key for us.
Fair and on time payment for the cotton farmers, sustainable cotton growing practices and wages for factory workers that are paid on time and exceed or correspond to at least the national set minimum wage. These practices are all in line with our own principles, so what better than partnering with CmiA?
Anything else you would like to share?
We are very excited to be launching another new line of designs: our Abaana Zero line. Recognizing how much fabric is being wasted everyday around the world compelled us to look at ways of reducing our environmental footprint. Our aim is to have a line with zero waste.
Key to Abaana Zero will be to upcycle the offcuts of old designs and transform them into new and beautifully designed clothing. At the heart of Abaana Zero are the local artisans we support through our work. They get fair prices, earn a decent living to support their families and are trained in quality standards for textile production.
Thank you for the interview.
Given Simatipa is 44 years old and grows CmiA cotton since 2000. Together with his family, he lives on his farm in southern Zambia. Given‘s four daughters and two sons are between 3 and 20 years old - five of them still go to school. Given‘s primary source of income is cotton. “The income I get from cotton sales has enabled me to properly roof my house. I can also pay school fees for my five schoolchildren”. Besides cotton, Given also cultivates other crops and keeps and sells livestock. He has participated in the farmer business school initiated by Cotton made in Africa. In these trainings, farmers learn how to treat their farm as a real business venture. “Thanks to the business school trainings, I can now plan my season's cultivation, and also provide enough and nutritious food for the family throughout the year.”
Emelly Mwanza is a 24 year old Cotton made in Africa farmer from Zambia. She has two daughters, aged 2 and 4, and has started growing cotton shortly after her first child was born back in 2013. For Emelly, cotton is an important source of income. It allows her to provide for her family, have enough to eat for everyone and meet other household needs. Emelly has also received trainings in good agricultural practices, which has helped her improve her farming skills. “As a result, I have increased my cotton yields and income. I have built a two bedroom house, bought a cow and started growing other crops.”
Since its foundation in June 2005, the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative has established strong and reliable trade relationships between international textile companies and African cotton farmers on a level playing field. One of the most important markets for CmiA textiles is China. As the demand for CmiA cotton is constantly increasing CmiA has organized two cotton Regional Conferences in Qingdao and Guangzhou. On August 1st and 3rd more than 160 experts attended the workshops, representing actors along the textile value chain – from spinning mills to ready-made garment and fabric producers right through to cotton traders, merchandisers and representatives of internationally operating textile companies.
Christian Barthel, Director Supply Chain Management for Cotton made in Africa, draws a positive conclusion: “There was an incredible interest in both Regional Conference we organized in China. Our work is to connect smallholder farmers in Africa with the international textile industry. Both events enabled us to further introduce our work to the Chinese market.” Special focus lied on the issue of transparency and the integration of CmiA cotton into the respective supply chains of large retailers and brands: “It was very important to me to show which sourcing and up-scaling advantages CmiA offers to Chinese textile companies. Thanks to our sourcing services, we enable our partners to integrate CmiA cotton efficiently and transparently. Thereby, our partners can combine transparency with profitability – a win-win situation for supply chain actors and farmers as the up-take of CmiA cotton thereby grows”, Barthel explains further.
Thomas Reinhart, Member of the Management Board of the Paul Reinhart AG , one of the world’s leading cotton traders, underlined the benefits CmiA offers and which important role China plays for the creation of value when it comes to an increasing demand for CmiA cotton. Henning Hammer, CEO from Otto Stadtlander, another CmiA partner and important cotton trader worldwide, also emphasised that sustainable cotton in general and CmiA in particular are becoming more and more important for the international cotton and textile sector.
Thomas Neidel, Import Manager for the international fashion company bonprix, explained that in 2017 already 90% of their cotton comes from China, India and Bangladesh. In total, his company foresees to use 25.000 tons of CmiA certified cotton from Africa within this year.
The attendees perceived both workshops as a great kick-off for further Cotton Regional Conferences to strengthen collaborations and their textile network.
As a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles initiated by the Federal Government, Cotton made in Africa published its action plan as of July 31. The Action Plan, which has been successfully adopted after an external review, includes an overview of the activities undertaken by Cotton made in Africa in order to improve the living and working conditions of smallholder farmers and to protect our environment. In addition, Cotton made in Africa follows a continious improvement plan. As a result, the action plan also includes new target agreements, which CmiA will implement on the basis of its current work. Cotton made in Africa has published its roadmap before the mandatory publication obligation in the next year in order to report transparently on its goals and its work.
"Cotton made in Africa is a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles. With its expertise and expertise in the cotton and textile industry, CmiA supports the goals of the Partnership. In close cooperation with political, economic and civilian actors, the initiative ensures nature protection as well as better working and living conditions for cotton farmers and factory workers in Africa," emphasizes Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, umbrella organisation of Cotton made in Africa. "As a well-known sustainability standard and the most important label for sustainable cotton from Africa, Cotton made in Africa has the necessary skills to enable internationally operating companies to effectively implement the goals which the Partnership has set up with regard to natural fibers," adds Stridde. As a recognized standard organization, CmiA is a key contributor to the effectiveness of the Partnership. Numerous partners of the textile alliance such as the Otto Group, the Rewe Group or Tchibo have joined Cotton made in Africa many years ago. They rely on Cotton made in Africa cotton for their products and produce textiles with the Cotton made in Africa label for the world market. Each Cotton made in Africa textile protects nature and supports hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers as well as thousands of factory workers in the cotton industry in Africa.
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