Since it was founded in June 2005, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF), launched by Dr. Michael Otto, and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative have successfully supported smallholders in Africa, protected the environment and established trade relationships between international textile companies and African cotton farmers on a level playing field. To mark the 10th anniversary, Dr. Michael Otto is investing €1 million into the newly-launched Cotton made in Africa cooperation program to continue supporting communities in rural Africa.
It was 10 years ago that Dr. Michael Otto laid the foundation for a socially and ecologically sustainable production of cotton from Africa and for helping African smallholder farmers to help themselves with the Aid by Trade Foundation and its Cotton made in Africa initiative. What began with 150,000 cotton producers in three countries is now one of the largest projects in German development cooperation with Africa. In its anniversary year, the initiative is active in 10 Sub-Saharan African countries, cooperates with 650,000 smallholders, and reaches a total of over 5.5 million people. The smallholders have been able to increase their yields by approximately 20% during their partnership with CmiA. From 2008 to the end of 2014, more than 660,000 metric tons of ginned CmiA cotton were used for textiles worldwide and more than 100 million garments with the CmiA sustainability seal were put on sale by partner companies. These textiles represent responsible fashion and set an example for socially and ecologically sustainable economy. From 2008 to the end of 2014, licensed CmiA products brought in an income of almost €5 million for AbTF, which was able to invest it for the benefit of African farming families. The foundation once again improved its program service expense ratio in 2014 by almost 2% to 68.9%. This describes the effectiveness of the means employed to achieve foundation’s objectives in relation to overall expenditure. Overall, Cotton made in Africa is emphasizing that sustainability and economic viability do not have to be mutually exclusive and instead that all parties can profit from it.
Also in future, Cotton made in Africa will be devoting itself to the task of providing a raw material suitable for the mass market which reconciles economy and sustainability and from which smallholders profit directly. The CmiA cooperation program will also be launched to mark the initiative's 10th anniversary. In the spirit of the foundation's mission, it will support projects in the areas of education, health, the advancement of women, and natural conservation in the Cotton made in Africa growing regions. Project funding applications will come directly from the CmiA growing regions and be financed via contributions from private donors. Dr. Michael Otto is leading by example and provides the program with a starting capital of €1 million.
Get to know more about CmiA's development in the course of its history and its most important milestones between 2005 and 2015 here.
You would like to get to know more about CmiA' activities in work in 2014? Have a look at our Annual Report for2014 here.
780 people around the world lack access to safe drinking water. 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation facilities. 4 billion people – many of them chil-dren under 5 years of age – suffer from related, often fatal ill-nesses. Effective immediately, OTTO Austria, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF), the Welthungerhilfe and the Deutsche Inves-titions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) with funds from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development are taking action. Together they are investing EUR 320,000 in order to promote the supply of clean water and sanitation facili-ties in the rural regions of Zimbabwe.
According to the United Nations, most diseases in developing countries are caused by inadequate sanitation facilities and lack of safe drinking water. This is where the project comes into play: "To fight poverty and create op-portunities for sustainable development, we initiated the project for safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities in the CmiA growing regions in Zimbabwe," explains Alexandra Perschau, project manager at the Aid by Trade Foundation. "On the way to achieving our goal of 100% sustainable cotton by 2020, we support this project in order to do our part to improve living conditions and the economic prospects of the cotton farmers who sustainably produce the raw material, which is of such crucial importance to us," explains Mag. Georg Glinz, spokesman for OTTO Austria.
Boreholes and sanitation facilities are being built and refurbished in a total of 20 villages in the cotton-producing region of South Gokwe. To ensure that the project has the greatest possible long-term effect in terms of sustainabil-ity, awareness for health-promoting measures is being raised with training courses and campaigns. Committees specially created for the project will make sure that the boreholes are used in a sustainable manner and act as an interface for the local communities. The project training courses and campaigns address nearly 5,000 pupils, who will be trained as "hygiene am-bassadors" and will act as multipliers and share their knowledge with their families.
"For us, mobilizing young people is an important part of this project. This ensures that the local communities will be able to independently use the infrastructure provided to improve health and hygiene once the project is completed", stresses Michael Hofmann, head of marketing at Welthun-gerhilfe.
An above average number of people in the South Gokwe region are affect-ed by a lack of adequate water supply and sanitation facilities: only 61 per-cent have access to safe water and adequate sanitation facilities are only available to 18 percent of the populace. In Zimbabwe, more than 4,000 chil-dren die as the result of cholera and diarrhea.
Photo: Laschet / Welthungerhilfe
Life Cycle Assessment confirms: "CmiA cotton reduces the negative impact on climate change!"
For Ulrike Bos from Fraunhofer Institute and Dr. Susanne Neubert from the Centre for Rural Development (SLE) at the Humboldt University of Berlin/Germany, one thing is certain: "The cultivation of CmiA cotton has less impact on the environment compared to conventional and irrigated cotton. The low amount of efficiently used resources and production facilities makes it possible to minimize greenhouse gas emissions that result from cotton production. Thanks to rain fed agriculture, a tremendous amount of water can also be saved." Their review confirms the results of Cotton made in Africa's (CmiA) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), conducted by PE INTERNATIONAL according to the ISO 14040 standard.
CmiA cotton has shown to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. CmiA cotton emits up to 40% fewer greenhouse gas emissions per kilo of cotton fiber than conventional cotton. According to the study results, CmiA emits only a 1.04 kg CO2 equivalent level in comparison to 1.8 kg CO2/kg for conventional cotton. As CmiA cotton is exclusively cultivated with rainwater, CmiA saves more than 2,100 liters of water per kilogram of cotton fiber compared to the global average.
"The second life cycle assessment of Cotton made in Africa is our response to the growing interest among consumers and businesses in the environmental impacts of the production of goods such as textiles," explains Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. The foundation commissioned the world-renowned sustainability and software company PE INTERNATIONAL to review all the relevant production steps involved in CmiA cotton, from cultivation to ginning in the factory, in accordance with standardized methods of life cycle assessments. "With the publication of this study, we are pleased to be able to once again confirm the positive environmental impact of Cotton made in Africa. This enables us to provide manufacturers and consumers with useful facts with which the environmental impacts of Cotton made in Africa with cotton from other sources and other materials can be compared," Stridde adds.
The result of the Life Cycle Assessment substantiates the ecological added value of CmiA cotton and confirms the positive LCA from the study on the ecological footprint conducted by Systain Consulting in 2013. For this second study, PE INTERNATIONAL used two climatically representative growing regions: Côte d'Ivoire in western Africa and Zambia in southern Africa. Due to the different scope and objectives of the two studies, the absolute figures of the results differ slightly from each other. To ensure the highest standards in terms of quality and credibility, liability and ISO standard, both Ulrike Bos from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Southern Germany, who is an expert in LCA of renewable raw materials and Dr. Susanne Neubert from the Centre of Rural Development (SLE) at the Humboldt University of Berlin/Germany, who is an expert in the fields of agricultural sciences and cotton production in the socio-economic and environmental context of Africa, reviewed the LCA prepared by PE INTERNATIONAL as independent third parties. The plan for the future is to extend the studies to other regions and harvest cycles.
If you wish to download the study, follow the link pdf CmiA Life Cycle Assessment 2014 (2.97 MB) .
Methodology: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) provides an effective aid when comparing different systems because it systematically analyzes the environmental impacts of products, processes, or services along the entire life cycle of a product. This includes all environmental impacts resulting from the production as well as those preceding and subsequent processes involved, such as manufacturing the raw materials and supplies. Life cycle assessments are used as a standardized tool to quantitatively investigate potential environmental impacts at the product level. Their methodology is also based on analyzing the efficiency of resource use. ISO 14040 defines the steps and documentation needed to perform an ISO-compliant life cycle assessment.
 Greenhouse gas emissions are measured in CO2 equivalents. In addition to CO2, the emissions also include N2O and CH4, among others.
Clean drinking water and proper sanitation are taken for granted in many parts of the world – but in rural Africa they are precious commodities. OTTO is intent on providing the people in the Cotton made in Africa growing regions with access to clean water and hygienic living conditions with immediate effect and is working towards achieving this aim in cooperation with the Aid by Trade Foundation, Care Mozambique, the Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH (DEG) with funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and from the cotton trading company Plexus. The total amount being invested in Mozambique by the partners is 300,000 euro.
In the last year alone, OTTO used 1,350 tons of CmiA cotton in its textiles. This corresponds to 33% of their own brands, and the trend continues upwards. From now on, the company is also working on the ground to support the people in the African cotton growing regions of Cotton made in Africa. The joint project "Drop for Life" is a mouthpiece for the partners who are advocating improved water supply, sanitation and hygiene conditions for the rural population and are reaching up to 30,000 people in Mozambique.
Wells and sanitary facilities will have been constructed in at least 16 villages in the Cabo Delgado cotton growing region in Mozambique by mid-2016. Health promotion programs will help to raise awareness of health issues among the local population. The people will learn the importance of clean drinking water and proper sanitation as well as how to build and maintain their own sanitary facilities. Specially appointed committees will make sure that the water points and latrines are used effectively and will liaise with the local village residents.
"The "Drop for Life" project initiatives are aimed mainly at women as they make a major contribution towards improving the living conditions of the rural population. They are the ones who can advocate the importance of clean drinking water and sanitary facilities in their families. So women are accorded a key role in this project," said Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. Anja Dillenburg, Head of Corporate Responsibility at OTTO also emphasized this point, adding, "when I was out in rural Africa, I noticed that the women and girls are responsible both for the water supply and for the care of family members. In order to fetch water, they often have to walk many kilometers several times every day. Many illnesses are also caused by poor sanitation and lack of access to clean drinking water. Therefore we ensure that the women are relieved of some of the daily burden and that there is a general improvement in the quality of life for the local population."
Get to know more about it on our project site: Water and Sanitation Project Mozambique.
Approximately 5,400 smallholder farmers from Uganda are now benefiting from the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative. This is the result of the successful verification of the Western Uganda Cotton Company (WUCC) and the cooperating cotton farmers. As the largest cotton initiative in Africa, CmiA is now also engaged in improving the living conditions of Uganda's smallholder farmers and their families through sustainable cotton farming.
"We are delighted to be able to cooperate with smallholder farmers from Uganda and to assist them with training as well as the creation of a demand alliance for their cotton with the CmiA seal. This benefits local people and is a considerable success for our foundation with Uganda becoming the ninth country from Sub-Saharan Africa where we are actively supporting sustainable cotton farming and the rights of local farmers," explains Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Foundation. As partners of CmiA, local farmers receive regular training on agricultural and business topics. They also benefit from reliable contracts and prompt payment for their harvest. With its market-oriented approach, the foundation also aims to improve the competitiveness of cotton from Uganda.
Nearly 80 per cent of Uganda's population works in agriculture. This makes cotton one of the main sources of income in the country's rural regions. By establishing a sustainable basis for the cultivation of the 'white gold' for both people and the environment, Cotton made in Africa is making a significant contribution towards the fight against poverty and offering a reliable livelihood to Uganda's smallholder farmers. AbTF will also be taking a further decisive step in Uganda shortly: Through its cooperation with the recently founded company Fine Spinners, Uganda's first fully integrated textile company, CmiA cotton is expected to form the basis for fully integrated textile production from the cotton field to the final product - cotton and textiles made in Africa.
Sustainable Cotton Initiative Reaches 440,000 African Smallholder Farmers in 2013 and Records License Revenues of More Than One Million Euros
The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) publishes its first Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Annual Report wherein the foundation reports about its work in the African project areas and on the global sales markets in 2013.
The Aid by Trade Foundation can look back on a successful year 2013. 80 percent of its total income originate from activating market forces. This is due in particular to the positive revenue development in marketing for the CmiA license to textile companies and fashion brands. License revenues exceeded a total of one million euros for the first time in 2013. "This positive result shows that we are successfully putting the credo of Cotton made in Africa, aid through trade and not through donations, into action," says Tina Stridde, spokeswoman for the Aid by Trade Foundation. "An increasing number of companies are making a conscious decision to use Cotton made in Africa cotton and feature their products with the CmiA quality label. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved: for farmers in Africa as well as for the consumers here."
With the revenues, the foundation makes significant contributions to financing training and cooperation projects. A total of 440,000 smallholder farmers have been verified according to the foundation's criteria standards in 2013, with 95% of farmers additionally benefiting from pre-financing for their expenditures on seed or fertilizers. The cooperation projects involve building schools in the African project areas, ensuring clean drinking water supply, or supporting women's cooperatives. The total volume of the cooperation projects amounted to EUR 684,000 in the reporting year.
The annual report is available in German and English and can be downloaded here.