The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) is glad to announce a pioneering new partnership in the United Kingdom: Abi Rushton, Founder and Director of
ethicalexpert limited, will be advising the Hamburg-based foundation on cooperations with UK retailers. The foundation's initiative Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) supports an innovative approach to development cooperation by improving the living conditions of African smallholder farmers through trade. A global demand alliance purchases their sustainably produced cotton at market prices.
The partnership of the Aid by Trade Foundation and Abi Rushton and her ethical trade and sustainable supply chain consultancy ethicalexpert, aims at opening up new markets for the African cotton offered by Cotton made in Africa. "This partnership is a huge opportunity for the initiative to break into the British market, which is known to be a leader in the field of sustainable consumerism", says Stephan Engel, responsible for Sales at AbTF.
Abi Rushton comments on the agreement: "At ethicalexpert we're very excited about the partnership with Cotton made in Africa as the initiative also aims at securing profitable supply chains for brands and workers. We've been impressed with the reach and impact of CmiA's work on the ground in Africa and its potential commercial impact for brands." Rushton, who has extensive experience across the market, is optimistic with regard to the future development of the initiative in the UK's retail industry: "We believe our work with clients to develop profitable sustainability strategies compliments CmiA's work. Together we can provide sound commercial opportunities for brands and workers." The initiative's approach of making sustainable materials available at market prices, Rushton argues, could provide a solution for UK retail to help the ethical fashion niche go mainstream and give retailers a profitable means to drive the change.
Cotton made in Africa works in five African countries to help smallholder cotton farmers help themselves through trade. On the one hand the initiative supports cotton farmers on-site with training and community projects; on the other hand, CmiA continues to build a demand alliance of international textile companies that purchase sustainably produced cotton at market prices and process it further for the global market. The demand alliance currently includes over twenty international textile companies.
Michael Otto has been awarded the Walter Scheel Prize for his commitment to development cooperation. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development presented the Hamburg businessman with the award for founding the Aid by Trade Foundation and the Cotton made in Africa initiative, which seeks to improve the living conditions of African smallholders.
The Aid by Trade Foundation pursues an innovative development cooperation goal: instead of sending donations to Africa, its Cotton made in Africa initiative provides help for self-help through trade on the principle of "social business". It has created an alliance of international textile companies that purchase and process sustainably grown African cotton for the world market. The initiative improves the living conditions of around 240,000 African smallholders in this way. Michael Otto, who started up the Aid by Trade Foundation in 2005, is currently chairman of the Foundation's Board of Trustees.
The idea for setting up the Foundation and the initiative came at the fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancún in 2003. The negotiations there had stalled because of protests by African states against distortions in trade caused by farming subsidies. In order to rectify this injustice in global trade and to improve the income of cotton growers in Africa, Michael Otto created the Cotton made in Africa initiative and the Aid by Trade Foundation.
The prize was awarded for the first time this year on 26 May 2011 in Berlin in the presence of former president Walter Scheel, after whom it is named. It is given to individuals and organisations performing particular services to development in society. The other recipients apart from Michael Otto were Ulrich Wickert for the non-governmental organisation Plan International, the retired German women's footballer Nia Künzer, and the Ethiopian business consultant and writer Dr. Asfa-Wossen Asserate.
James Shikwati, known for his criticism of classic development aid, is to join the Board of Trustees of the Aid by Trade Foundation. The founder of the Kenyan Inter Region Economic Network supports the Foundation's innovative development approach: the Aid by Trade Foundation does not transfer any financial resources to Africa but helps people to help themselves through the Cotton made in Africa initiative.
The Aid by Trade Foundation has recruited the Kenyan market economist James Shikwati to its Board of Trustees. "I support the Foundation's initiative to offer an opportunity to African smallholder cotton farmers to connect to global markets," he says. "I believe that those who want to help Africa should trade with the continent and support value added production there."
Members of the Board of Trustees of the Aid by Trade Foundation include leading international figures from environmental associations, the public sector and private business. Chaired by Michael Otto, it ensures the long-term pursuit of the Foundation's overarching aims of improving the social situation in Africa and promoting environmental protection.
The Aid by Trade Foundation has presented the first study of the project regions involved in its Cotton Made in Africa (CmiA) initiative. The results provide initial insight into the living conditions of the 240,000 African smallholder farmers taking part in the project. It analyses and compares the status quo of the five west and east African countries, laying the groundwork for all future success and development assessments of the CmiA project areas
From May 2010 to January 2011, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) headquartered in Chicago completed field studies in the five projects countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi and Zambia. NORC gathered data on indicators such as demographics, education, yield and income for the smallholder families that will serve as a basis for comparison in future. The Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) commissioned the study which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Demographics, yield, income and education -- key findings
The study produced interesting results in demographics, yield, income and education. It demonstrated that CmiA reaches 1.6 million people - including the family members of the 240,000 smallholder farmers. Average household size in Malawi is the smallest with 4.6 people and by far the largest in Burkina Faso with an average of 10.1 people.
In Benin and Côte d'Ivoire, yield from the cotton harvest is currently 1,000 kg/ha of raw cotton and around 880 kg/ha in Burkina Faso. Cotton made in Africa's goal is to increase yield through training, allowing the African smallholder farmers to improve their incomes and helping them to help themselves. Benin clearly demonstrates that training offered by the initiative is bearing fruit: CmiA farmers there already achieve around 39 percent higher income than those not participating in the initiative.
Still income per person is currently less than 1.25 dollars a day for 88.6 percent of all CmiA smallholder farmers. Household income in the West African countries is around 1,466 dollars a year, the median in Malawi and Zambia just 361 dollars annually. Around 12.5 percent of the families in Benin and Burkina Faso suffer from a 'hungry season', a time in which all food stores have been exhausted and the new harvest is not yet in. In Malawi and Zambia this affects up to 30 percent of all households.
CmiA views education as the foundation for sustainable development. While the percentage of 5- to 12-year-old children who go to school in Malawi is the highest at 77.5 percent, only 47 of those children actually graduate. In Burkina Faso 46 percent go to school and only 29% of these complete a school leaving certificate. These numbers clearly show that there is still a great deal to be done. They also highlight the importance of the social projects the initiative is carrying out in cooperation with public and private partnerships to improve school infrastructure in the rural project regions.
As a snapshot of the current situation, the study's results underscore the importance of sustainable and innovative concepts in development cooperation. The data gained will serve as a basis for more closely focussing the CmiA initiative's work on better addressing key core issues. It will also serve as a basis for the regular evaluation and documentation of the project's progress in future.
SUSTAINEO is the name of this strategic initiative which strives for a stronger involvement of global market dynamics in development approaches to enable smallholder farmers in coffee, cocoa and cotton to improve their income and living conditions.
On Tuesday, 19th of April 2011, an alliance of the renowned entrepreneurs Dr. Michael Otto, Dr. Christian Jacobs and Michael R. Neumann was officially announced in a press conference held in Hamburg. SUSTAINEO is the name of this strategic initiative which strives for a stronger involvement of global market dynamics in development approaches to enable smallholder farmers in coffee, cocoa and cotton to improve their income and living conditions. Furthermore, SUSTAINEO aims to establish a strategic dialogue with policy makers. An intensive exchange of experiences between the foundations Hanns R Neumann Stiftung, Jacobs Foundation and Aid by Trade Foundation is foreseen to continuously improve the quality of work and document its impact.
Population growth, surface erosion and other use of cultivated areas make the supply of agricultural products a major global challenge. At the same time, the production of coffee, cotton and cocoa is of outstanding economic and social importance to many developing countries. Approx. 250 million people are depending on the production of said commodities which are primarily grown in poor rural areas. A professionalization of the entrepreneurial activities of smallholder farmers is a great opportunity to increase the typically very low income achieved.
"The demand for sustainably obtained products is going to increase more and more. By pooling our strengths in form of an alliance, we want to achieve that especially smallholder farmers contribute to the required supply volumes and benefit from an increasing demand by means of more productivity and better access to markets", states Dr. Michael Otto.
"In the project work of our foundations, we encounter comparable social and economic framework conditions and challenges when it comes to implementation and achievement of our objectives. In order to be able to enhance efficient and sustainable development cooperation we want to place our projects at new quality levels", says Michael R. Neumann.
"It is substantial to provide access to education to the children of smallholder farmers and to allow the communities to recognize education as necessary prerequisite for economic advance. It is this approach that I want to anchor more firmly by establishing SUSTAINEO", states Dr. J. Christian Jacobs.
SUSTAINEO was warmly welcomed by the Minister of International Development Cooperation of Germany, Mr. Dirk Niebel.
Education is the key to sustainable development. This is why the Otto Group is making a financial contribution to a social project established by the Cotton made in Africa Initiative to promote adult literacy.
This Public-Private Partnership project receives major support from the Otto Group and offers some 5,000 adults in the Central-South region the opportunity to learn to read and write in evening school. "Improving the literacy rate is one of the key factors in establishing a sustainable development process", is how Andreas Streubig, Otto Group Director of Environmental and Social Policy, explains the company's engagement.
The project was established in the autumn of 2009 within the framework of the Cotton made in Africa Initiative, together with the fashion company Apart, the German Society for Investment and Development (DEG) and German Agro Action. The illiteracy rate of around 71% has an extraordinarily high impact on the economic development of Burkina Faso and also poses very specific challenges for the smallholder farmers who participate in the Cotton made in Africa initiative: many cannot enjoy the potential benefits of the educational courses on offer because they cannot make notes or even read the course materials. Here, the literacy project helps people to help themselves.
Cotton made in Africa is not only committed to the sustainable cultivation of African cotton but also sees itself as an intermediary for a number of Public-Private Partnership projects. These PPP projects are characterised by companies and public organisations bundling their resources in order to strengthen social infrastructures in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Zambia and Malawi through social projects.