International Fashion Revolution Day on 04/24/2014
To commemorate the collapse of the textile factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh exactly one year ago, the international Fashion Revolution Day calls on consumers to ask about the origin of their own clothing with this year's motto "Who made your clothes?". The Cotton made in Africa initiative supports the global day of action to raise awareness for smallholder farmers in Africa who are at the beginning of the textile chain.
10 percent of cotton traded worldwide comes from Sub-Saharan Africa. Cotton sales account for about 50 percent of the cash income of smallholder farmers. However, the income of 80 percent of African cotton farmers is still under $1.50 per day. In addition, traditional cultivation of the raw material can significantly harm the environment. This is an issue Cotton made in Africa is committed to. Since 2005, farmers have received training in environmentally friendly farming methods, and at the same time the initiative has established an alliance of textile companies which purchases the sustainably produced cotton and pays a licensing fee to the initiative. This revenue is re-invested in the African project regions and benefits the smallholder farmers and their families in the poorest regions of the world.
For Tina Stridde, the question "Who made you clothes?" is directly related to the origin of the raw material as she explains, "We work together with people who are at the beginning of the value chain and thus lay the foundation for sustainable textile production."
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Rösch launches first sleepwear collection made from 100% CmiA cotton that can be traced back to the cotton growing area in Africa
The textile value chain is known for its high complexity. During the process from raw material to final product, textiles pass through numerous production steps. Rösch provides maximum transparency in its textile value chain with its new sleepwear collection made from 100% Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) cotton that can be traced back to the African cotton growing region. The company is certified according to the newly adopted Hard Identity Preserved (HIP) standard of the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF).
Since the Aid by Trade Foundation set the Hard Identity Preserved (HIP) standard for seamless traceability of CmiA cotton along the textile chain, Rösch will now launch the first collection made from 100% CmiA cotton according to the HIP standard: "By introducing the new Hard Identity Preserved Standard, the Aid by Trade Foundation will make a significant contribution to providing greater transparency throughout the textile value chain. This is a great achievement for us to be the first company to offer its customers products that can be traced back to the growing area of CmiA cotton in Africa," explains Andreas Söffker, Managing Director of Gerhard Rösch. Christian Barthel, Supply Chain Manager of the Aid by Trade Foundation adds, "We are pleased that Rösch has succeeded in fulfilling the requirements of the Hard Identity Preserved system and launching the first CmiA products certified according to the HIP standard. These requirements follow our demand for transparency and simultaneously pragmatic feasibility and can thus be used by a wide range of customers."
The requirements of the HIP standard include, among others, separate storage of cotton throughout all production stages of the value chain. Additional requirements for the entire textile value chain have been summarized by the Aid by Trade Foundation in its Chain of Custody (CoC) Guideline and published online. The Foundation provides its partners with additional support in monitoring the processing of CmiA cotton in the textile value chain through workshops and analysis of commodity flows. Consumers can recognize CmiA HIP products by the corresponding CmiA label.
Social and environmental responsibility in the company and its supply chain is part of the corporate philosophy of Gerhard Rösch GmbH. Since 2013, the family-run textile company from Tübingen, Germany has been a partner of the Cotton made in Africa initiative and supports improving the living conditions of currently 435,000 African smallholder farmers and their family members, including more than 3.2 million people.
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The Hermes Logistik Gruppe Germany (HLGD) is the cotton initiative's Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) newest partner. Since November, the company expects to outfit its 13,000 parcel delivery staff in Germany with cotton made according to the environmental and social standards of Cotton made in Africa. Hermes and CmiA will thus support around 475,000 CmiA cotton farmers who produce the raw material on the African continent using sustainable methods.
By entering into the cooperation, Hermes has fundamentally switched to using exclusively Cotton Made in Africa cotton. The first delivery of CmiA textiles has been in use at Hermes parcel service since the end of November. Roughly 30,000 items in the CmiA label are already complementing the versatile outfits of the Hermes delivery staff in the current holiday shopping season.
"We are pleased with the successful start of the cooperation," says Dr. Philip Nölling, CFO of Hermes Logistik Group Germany. "The initiative will pay directly to our sustainability program that has been in development at Hermes since 1986. This includes the high quality outfits worn by our delivery staff which must satisfy the daily high demands placed on textiles in terms of protection and comfort. Thanks to Cotton made in Africa, we receive a raw material that has been reliably produced under strict social and environmental conditions."
By implementing sustainable cultivation conditions in the Cotton made in Africa standards, CmiA cotton is clearly better ecologically produced than conventional cotton. When broken down, this means that for every t-shirt, CmiA saves around 1,500 liters of water from the rain-fed crops. Under the growing conditions, this also means that smallholder farmers achieve a higher yield and thus a higher income.
Otto Group and Aid by Trade Foundation enable 2,900 children to attend school
2,900 children get a chance at education with the ceremonial opening of six schools in Zambia. The schools are the result of a social project to promote educational infrastructure in Zambia the Otto Group launched in cooperation with the Aid by Trade Foundation in July 2011.
The low level of education is one of the main reasons for minimal development in Zambia. This is where the school project initiated by the Otto Group and the Aid by Trade Foundation comes in. "Only through education can people lead independent lives and improve their living conditions through their own efforts. That is why the Cotton made in Africa initiative's goal has not only been focused on teaching smallholder farmers skills in growing cotton. We are also committed to creating educational opportunities for the farmers, their wives, and children," explains Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation.
"Reading, Writing, Arithmetic: For us, they are things we take for granted but for African children, unfortunately, an often unattainable dream. We are delighted to be able to contribute together with our partners to make this desire come true for 2,900 children of cotton farmers that are part of CmiA, including those in remote areas of Zambia, and that they now have the opportunity to go to school," said Andreas Streubig, Head of Corporate Responsibility at the Otto Group. Children in the rural areas of Zambia in particular have little chance to get an education: miles long, arduous journeys to school on foot, overcrowded classrooms without tables and benches as well as a lack of teaching materials are just some of the obstacles.
During this project, four schools were built, and two buildings were completely refurbished for use. All schools have been connected to the grid with solar panels installed on some and equipped with a significantly improved selection of textbooks. Moreover, children now have their own seat at new tables and benches and can work in peace, instead of learning in a confined space on the floor. School gardens were also constructed as part of the social project and sanitary facilities along with a total of 17 wells were built new.
The school children also received a special surprise thanks to the contribution by employees at the Otto Group who collected additional funds for the project. This made it possible to equip each classroom with black board geometry sets including a supply of chalk and pencils for the students.
The project is supported by the German Investment and Development Company (DEG) and the NWK Agri-Services local cotton company.
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Besides long-term partners an additional 70,000 smallholder farmers benefit from the cotton initiative for the first time
Nearly 70,000 smallholder farmers in Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Côte d'Ivoire benefit from the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative's program for the first time and are able to market CmiA-tested cotton. In this way, the initiative is further expanding its cooperation with smallholder families in Sub-Saharan Africa and making a significant contribution to improving their living conditions.
According to the Human Development Index of the United Nations, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Côte d’Ivoire are among the least developed countries in the world. In order to fully realize their potential, particular in the agricultural sector, CmiA focuses on sustainable and efficient cotton production. For the first time, the initiative is active in Ghana and cooperates with roughly 9,000 local smallholder farmers and the cotton company Olam. CmiA has already successfully contributed to improving the living conditions of smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Côte d'Ivoire. After successfully receiving CmiA standard certification, an additional 61,000 cotton farmers and the cotton companies Alliance in Zimbabwe and Zambia and Seco in Côte d'Ivoire are now initiative partners. Through training programs, Cotton made in Africa teaches cotton farmers about modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly cultivation methods that help them improve the quality of their cotton, yield higher crops, and thus earn a better income.
Christoph Kaut, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, is pleased about this latest milestone: "Not only the farmers but also their family members profit from the newly established cooperations with CmiA: In Ghana we are able to reach about 100,000 persons, in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Côte d'Ivoire roughly 486,000. This is a great success for all participants in the cotton growing regions of Sub-Saharan Africa and for our initiative." In total, about 435,000 smallholder farmers and with their family members included more than 3.2 million people currently participate in the CmiA program.
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760 children from Benin will rejoice in being able to go to school. As part of the project "Cotton for sustainable education", initiated by the Aid by Trade Foundation and its partner Tchibo, five school buildings are now inaugurated. The project is also supported by the German Investment and Development Company (DEG), the German International Cooperation (GIZ), and local representatives of the cotton farmers.
Despite efforts to improve the school system by the Benin government, the poverty that is rampant in the country makes it difficult to establish a well-functioning school infrastructure including equipment and maintenance of many school buildings. Roughly one in every three children drops out of elementary school and can neither read nor write. This is due to the cost of schooling that many small farmers in rural areas often cannot afford. This is where the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative and Tchibo comes in.
Together for a better school infrastructure for children
CmiA works to improve the incomes of small farmers through training in sustainable and efficient farming methods as well as passing on business knowledge. The initiative also invests together with partners in the public and private sectors in building school infrastructures, such as in Benin. "Education is the driving force behind sustainable development. It is a pleasure to be able to contribute to this development with our partners and to provide a total of 762 children of CmiA cotton farmers even in remote areas of Benin the opportunity to receive an education through currently five new school buildings. Thanks to the project, the children no longer need to travel the long and tiring routes to school," said Christoph Kaut, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation.
In addition to the construction of schools, 11 newly constructed school cafeterias and gardens for growing mostly local vegetables provide children with regular meals. Light that is key to learning in the evenings or in the early mornings comes from solar lamps that replace costly and hazardous oil lamps. They are distributed through a local company and are certified by "Lightning Africa", an initiative of the World Bank. Since both school supplies and school uniforms are lacking, the students are provided with a total 10,000 books and 30,000 school uniforms. Students also receive much needed school supplies, such as English and French dictionaries, pens, notebooks, solar powered calculators, and solar lamps for home in the form of a scholarship.
„The most effective way of support is giving children as well as adults the opportunity to learn," Achim Lohrie, Director Corporate Responsibility at Tchibo explains. „By helping people to help themselves, the initiative contributes particularly to an increase of education and infrastructure in Benin. Tchibo is one of the biggest purchasers of Cotton made in Africa cotton. We will continue to support the initiative and offer Cotton made in Africa labelled products -- this is how we take responsibility for people and nature," Lohrie comments further.
"Education helps make a farmer be a better farmer"
Through radio broadcasts, posters, and meetings in the villages, more than 30,000 cotton farmers in rural areas of Benin learned about the importance of education for their children and about the school project of the Cotton made in Africa initiative. "Education helps make a farmer be a better farmer" I did not have the opportunity to go to school, but I realize that education means progress," says smallholder farmer Orou Yaya, who at 90 is regarded in the village as a wise man and was initially a critic of the school project. Barikissou Yinongui, cotton farmer and mother from Benin adds, "I send my children to school so they do not become "blind". I am illiterate and unfortunately never went to school myself. I do not want my children to remain "blind". I hope my children will grow up to make a difference by going to school."