A total of 580,000 tons of cotton were certified according to the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) standard in 2018. CmiA was thus able to significantly increase the volume of sustainably produced cotton by almost 17 percent compared to the previous year. Around one million smallholder farmers from ten African countries were part of the initiative and were trained in sustainable and efficient farming methods. The demand for CmiA cotton on the market also rose by more than 14 percent compared to 2017. Currently, 46 international fashion brands and textile companies now purchase CmiA cotton on the international textile production markets. Their demand amounts to 103 million textiles with the CmiA label.
“With Cotton made in Africa, textile companies get more than just cotton. They show that sustainability and profitability go very well hand in hand,” says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of CmiA. “At the same time, international textile companies and brands are strong partners for smallholder farmers. For each textile piece, they pay licensing fees which finance the work in Africa. We are pleased that we have been able to successfully expand the demand for CmiA in the market thanks to 46 retailers and fashion brands.” CmiA is currently working with smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Ghana, as well as in Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. With the addition of new partners in Nigeria and Benin, the initiative expands its network from the 2018/2019 season. Whereas more than 100 registered spinning partners and textile producers worldwide work with CmiA in the textile chain now – 85 have been registered in 2018. About 37 percent of the total cotton production in Africa is CmiA-certified. CmiA-cotton is processed in 19 textile production markets worldwide – thereof seven in Africa.
International textile companies are strong partners for smallholder farmers
The Otto Group is the largest buyer with Bonprix heading the list. Roughly 93 percent of the cotton purchased and processed by Bonprix is CmiA-certified. “The close collaboration with Cotton made in Africa is an important leverage for us in achieving our goal of exclusively demanding sustainably produced cotton by 2020,” says Stefanie Sumfleth, Head of Quality Management, Corporate Responsibility & Digital Product Development at Bonprix. “We are convinced that together with CmiA, we make a valuable contribution to protecting people and the environment.” Other major buyers of the sustainably produced cotton are the REWE Group, Tchibo, ALDI SÜD, and ASOS as well as Ernsting’s family, Vlisco Group, Engelbert Strauss, and Bestseller. In addition to the big players, smaller fair fashion brands such as Hiitu, Cooee Kids, and Weaverbirds also rely on the sustainability label. Aldi Nord recently joined as new licensing partner.
All textile companies pay license fees to the initiative to use the certified cotton. CmiA reinvests the money in the farming regions to fund e.g. the costs of certification. In 2018, 26 regular audits took place, 12 in the field and 14 in the ginneries. Ginneries are factories where the cotton fiber is separated from the seeds. The independent and internationally recognized companies EcoCert and AfriCert conducted the certifications on behalf of the AbTF. A total of 19 African auditors were deployed in 2018. The external controls ensure that the exclusion criteria such as the ban on genetically modified seeds, the exclusion of artificial irrigation and certain dangerous pesticides are respected, and that the development criteria, such as measures to maintain soil fertility or gender equality, are improved. Income from licensing fees also finance agricultural trainings as well as “Farmer Business Schools” for smallholder farmers, where they learn basic business management skills. In addition, farming communities are sensitized to social issues such as the empowerment of women on their way to economic and social independence, to name just one. As part of the CmiA Community Cooperation Program, numerous projects to support the village communities were implemented in close cooperation with certified cotton companies in 2018. A central focus was the empowerment of women and children. A total of 254,000 euros have been paid in 2018 as project funds for school projects, income-generating measures for women or access to clean drinking water.
Founder Prof. Dr. med. Michael Otto concludes: “It is the courage and strength of our partners in Africa and around the world that spurs us on and motivates us every day to continue working with them on the success of our initiative and that allows us to look to the future with great optimism.”
Depending on the project country, cotton is cultivated, harvested and ginned at different times due to different climatic zones in sub-Saharan Africa. The information gives a review of the 2017/2018 season. The numbers are rounded and include CmiA and CmiA Organic.
Initiative and Ambassador focus on Empowerment on International Women's Day
Hamburg, March 8, 2019. In 2018, 160,000 female cotton farmers were part of the Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA) initiative in sub-Saharan Africa. Women do most of the work on the fields and drive positive changes in entire village communities. They play a central role for a sustainable development and better living conditions. That is why CmiA is working with local partners and companies of its demand alliance to foster women's rights. Thereby, women can step into economic independence and gain a better position in society.
"In many countries, women are disadvantaged and depend on men as they often do not have a job or vocational training. For today's World Women's Day, I would like to draw attention to the women who impress me deeply - the female cotton farmers in Africa. They are power women and the true heroines for me today. As Ambassador for Cotton Made in Africa, I am very proud to support them in public," says Motsi Mabuse, TV star and prominent dancer with South African roots. "In addition to cultivating cotton according to the CmiA standard, CmiA also supports smallholder women organized in women's groups financially. This enables them to realize their business ideas and to be financially better off. In this way, we provide important impulses that women become role models for others. We look forward to working together with Motsi and our partners to enlarge this engagement so that women and their children, families and village communities can benefit in the long term," adds Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation.
Cotton made in Africa sets up concrete measures for gender equality. CmiA certified cotton companies in Africa offer trainings how to grow sustainable cotton that are specifically geared to the needs of female participants. Additionally, women are trained to become group heads, so-called "lead farmers". This strengthens their role within the training groups as well as in the community. In the cotton companies, employees receive seminars on gender equality and women's representatives are appointed as permanent contact persons for female farmers.
Promote the development opportunities for women
With a cooperation program for local village communities, CmiA promotes the association of smallholder women. They get easier loans for example. "As a result of the special support measures, women are also increasingly involved in community projects and have a stronger say in decision-making," explains Josia Coulibaly, CR&S-Manager at SECO, a CmiA-certified cotton company in Côte d'Ivoire. "That makes them to important role models for other women." Women who are organized in groups work together to grow cotton and other crops. They reinvest the profits made as a group to help other villagers such as elderly or orphans.
Since 2015, CmiA has supported twenty different women's groups through the Community Cooperation Program. Of these, a total of 597 women benefited directly. Among the projects that have been initiated by the women were chicken, bee or goat breeding, tailoring, vegetable gardens or the construction of a grocery store. The projects help women improve their income and stabilize the food security of their families. Alice Chalimbwa from Nampundwe in Zambia is one of them. The grant allows her and her husband to go back to school and finish their secondary education.
Read more about the female cotton farmers in our Farmer Stories in section 'Wear a smile with...' here.
Hamburg/Istanbul, October 15, 2018. On the initiative of Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), a 17-members delegation of African cotton producers traveled to Turkey to learn more about the processing of "their" raw materials in one of the largest textile production markets in the world. In the metropolitan area of Istanbul, they visited an import organization, a spinning mill and a clothing manufacturing plant. The aim of the trip was to better understand the needs of each supply chain member and meet the quality requirements within the cotton and textile production market.
At the beginning of the trip, a visit to a spinning mill and embroidery in Çorlu near Istanbul was on the agenda. From the modern and efficient machinery through the laboratory to the many elaborate cleaning stages and quality controls, it offered new and interesting insights for the African visitors. In addition, they learned more about the manufacturing process (CMT) and the import organization on site. All these process steps follow when the cotton producers lose sight of their raw material after selling their harvest to the nominated cotton traders. The three different stations in the textile value chain made it impressively clear how many work and elaborated processing steps follow until a high-quality T-shirt is made from the raw material cotton. "I am fascinated by the precision and care with which the cotton is processed. It motivates us to apply the same quality standard when growing cotton ", Emmanuel Mbewe sums up his impressions. Mbewe is CmiA coordinator of the cotton company Continental Ginnery Limited in Zambia. He is constantly working with the smallholders to produce high quality cotton that can achieve a better price on the world market.
Organizer of the trip was Cotton made in Africa (CmiA). The initiative works with over one million smallholders in Africa who produce sustainable cotton according to the CmiA standard. The aim of the trip was to promote the exchange between the different stages of textile value creation, which usually have very little or no contact with each other. The visit contributed to a better understanding of the needs of the textile industry on the one hand and the challenges of cotton producers on the other. Christian Barthel, Director Business Development of CmiA, summarizes: "We are pleased about the great interest in this cross-channel exchange. If the partners in the textile value chain understand each other's needs better, everyone benefits."
Cotton is the most commonly used natural fiber for global textile production. Cotton produced sustainably in accordance with the CmiA standard is in demand in all important textile production markets - as well as in Turkey. According to the WTO, Turkey was ranked sixth in the world’s largest textile suppliers in 2017. The country has been a producer of CmiA-labeled textiles since the sustainability initiative was launched in 2005.
Solidaridad, Cotton made in Africa, Danish Ethical Trading Initiative and MVO Nederland start a new project to promote a sustainable cotton and garment value chain, from Ethiopian cotton to European consumers.
During the 8th international conference on cotton, textile & apparel value chain in Africa (CTA 2019) at Bahir Dar University, the new EU funded project Bottom UP! was officially launched. The growing interest of international brands to source garments from Ethiopia provides an opportunity to develop the sector in a sustainable way. That is why Solidaridad, Cotton made in Africa, Danish Ethical Trading Initiative (DIEH) and MVO Nederland (CSR Netherlands) with the support of the EU start a project in Ethiopia to create a sustainable, transparent and inclusive value chain. The project aims to benefit 2,000 cotton farmers, 2,200 rural workers and 17,000 garment workers.
The cotton and garments industry is the second most important growth sector for the Ethiopian government. However, a number of current challenges are hampering the projected growth of the industry and question the reputation of being a sustainable sourcing destination. The lack of a minimum wage that can ensure decent living conditions for workers is for example a major concern. Wages reported are as low as 26 USD per month which is far below the World Bank poverty line.
The aim of the Bottom UP project is to contribute to a value chain that generates business growth, improves working conditions, promotes labour and environmental standards and responsible purchasing practices in the cotton and textiles industry in Ethiopia and Europe by 2021. To achieve this the partners will provide trainings and technical support to cotton farmers, commercial farms and ginneries to comply with sustainable practices and standards. They will facilitate direct links between European brands and Ethiopian factories for the uptake of sustainable cotton and provide technical support to factories to adopt sustainable practices. Additionally, potential international buyers will be informed about the opportunities and barriers for sourcing garments from Ethiopia and matchmaking sessions will be organised. Eventually a consumer campaign in Europe will be conducted, to raise awareness on the issues in the garment industry, but also on positive developments.
The Solidaridad Network is an international civil society organization founded in 1969. Its main objective is facilitating the development of socially responsible, ecologically sound and profitable supply chains. It operates through eight regional expertise centers in over 40 countries. Solidaridad seeks to transform production practices to promote fair and profitable livelihoods and business opportunities, decent working conditions and a fair living wage without depleting the landscapes where people live and thrive.
About Danish Ethical Trading Initiative (DIEH)
The Danish Ethical Trading Initiative was established in 2008 and has grown into a strong organisation that operate across a range of sectors. DIEH is a Danish non-profit organisation that facilitates cooperation between different stakeholders to enhance responsible trade.
About MVO Nederland
CSR Netherlands / MVO Nederland is the Centre of Excellence for Dutch companies that are striving towards corporate social responsibility. More than 2000 companies are affiliated with this networking organization.
The Bathrobe Challenge by Cotton made in Africa reached millions of people through social networks
Over a million smallholder farmers in Africa, 500,000 tons of sustainable cotton, 90 million labelled textiles and an initiative that works together with partners along the textile value chain from field to fashion – that’s Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), one of the largest standards for sustainable cotton. By means of the now completed #BathrobeChallenge CmiA reached millions of people through social networks and set a sign for cotton farmers in Africa.
Wear a bathrobe for a good cause – that’s the motto of the #BathrobeChallenge which was initiated by CmiA and started on 30 August with a party in Berlin. The idea of posting selfies in bathrobes and challenging others to do the same spread through the social media networks until now, reaching almost 5 million people. Among the supporters were prominent people such as the CmiA ambassadors Motsi Mabuse and Laura Chaplin, the band Revolverheld with its front man Johannes Strate, the model Elena Carrière and influencers such as Riccardo Simonetti and Aminata Belli. “With every picture, every hashtag and every link, the challenge reached people all over the world. It is very important for us to draw more attention to our work and the label Cotton made in Africa. With the #BathrobeChallenge we have taken a big step towards it. We are delighted that we have been able to activate so many participants that supported our cause”, said Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Cotton made in Africa Initiative about the #BathrobeChallenge.
Partners of the initiative also actively supported the challenge – for example NGOs such as Welthungerhilfe, WWF, Care and NABU as well as retailers and brands such as OTTO, Hiitu or Tchibo. The bathrobe was not just taken as a prop for funny selfies. It was chosen because it is seen just as little in public as the cotton farmers. “OTTO has been committed to Cotton made in Africa since its creation, and banks on sustainably produced cotton from Africa with the CmiA certificate. With the Bathrobe Challenge, we have been able to draw attention in a positive way to the people who grow the raw material for our clothes”, enthuses Anja Dillenburg, Head of Corporate Responsibility at OTTO. Iris Schöninger, Deputy Head of the Policy Department at Welthungerhilfe adds: “Cotton farmers have to be able to make a living out of their work in the fields and have to have the opportunity to send their children to school instead of on the field. As a long-term partner of Cotton made in Africa, we are happy to take part in the BathrobeChallenge, to make more people aware of our common goals and the possible solutions that Cotton made in Africa offers. "
Further information can be found via www.bathrobechallenge.com
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.