The aim of Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) is to verifiably and transparently provide improved living conditions for the smallholder cotton farmers and their families in Sub Saharan Africa. The analysis of production data and representative surveys in Zambia and Zimbabwe show the first qualitative results such as increases in yield for CmiA smallholder farmers by 23%. However, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) like other organizations faces some challenges in measuring the success of development policy work.

In order to contribute significantly to reducing poverty and to environmental protection, the initiative focuses on measurable improvements in social, environmental, and economic standards of living. For example, sustainable farming methods such as measures for maintaining and improving soil fertility, pesticide management, or education are measured, among other things. Another key factor is the development of the crop yields.

In the majority of program countries however, there is no reliable production data because the shape and size of a smallholder cotton field can be very irregular. The prerequisite for a valid measurement of effectiveness are precise hectares sizes because only then can the crop yields and the income of farmers be determined. CmiA has now introduced wide-scale use of GPS devices to resolve this issue. Another problem is that the quantities produced per hectare often are difficult to record. In many cases, the farmers sell their cotton to different dealers or pass it on to other family members to avoid repaying the loans to the cotton company. Their yield data are thus often led by their interests and can only be verified with difficulty. Depending on the context, the yield can therefore only be determined reliably by professionally trained harvest appraisers.

Since word about the attractiveness of the CmiA program has spread, for example, in Zambia, that almost every farmer benefits from the training program and about continued support by CmiA, the selection of appropriate control groups has become a major challenge. Further difficulties lie in the comparability of the control groups, for example, by different climate zones or different seed qualities. Roger Peltzer, Program Director of the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI), which works closely with CmiA in implementing and evaluating the program, explains: "Offering reliable information about the impact of our work for such a broad-based project is the result of a learning process spanning many years. Having gone through this process, we can now gather substantial results based on the representative surveys up to the end of 2014 conducted in all participating countries. In the future, it will therefore be possible for us to provide annual information on cotton production figures, socio-economic data such as school boards in the CmiA cotton production areas as well as on the implementation of sustainable CmiA cultivation techniques."

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Cotton made in Africa becomes cooperation partner of “Platz schaffen mit Herz”

Logo Platz schaffen mit Herz

The Hamburg-based company OTTO will today launch its new clothing donation system through courier delivery called “Platz schaffen mit Herz”. The aim is to turn clothing donations into valuable donations with the proceeds exclusively benefiting non-profit organizations including the Cotton made in Africa initiative

The OTTO company has launched a new sustainability project as part of its “Initiative Future”. Operating under the name “Platz schaffen mit Herz”, OTTO will offer its customers the opportunity to send in sorted clothing, footwear, and home textiles as a clothing donation for free by courier. What is so special about this project, in addition to the new method for donating clothes by courier instead of a drop-off box, is the distribution of funds. This means proceeds from the resale of the textiles will be used exclusively for social and environmental purposes.

The Cotton made in Africa initiative, which has been working together with OTTO for years to improve the living conditions of cotton farmers in Africa, is one of the recipient organizations. “We are delighted to be working with “Platz schaffen mit Herz”. The proceeds we will receive will mainly be used to co-finance our community projects in the cotton growing areas. This will help us further strengthen our commitment to the families of cotton farmers,” says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. Other non-profit organizations involved are the Naturschutzbund Deutschland e. V. (NABU) (German for German Society for Nature Conservation), and die Welthungerhilfe. In addition, proceeds from clothing sales will be invested in new technologies for fiber production.

“In dealing with the important issues such as the conservation and utilization of resources, we started a few months ago to focus our attention on the collection of old clothes. Most important to us was to create transparency in a sometimes very opaque market,” explains Anja Dillenburg, Head of Corporate Responsibility at OTTO, the driving force behind the campaign. “That's why we work together with certified specialists who in turn have long-standing and open business relationships with their buyers.”

The launch of the nationwide collection campaign is scheduled for March 17 with initial donation results projected to be published in the spring of 2015.  

Business management training courses for smallholder cotton farmers

Since May 2012, Cotton made in Africa and the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (Compaci) invest in business management trainings for smallholder cotton farmers. Farmer Business Schools aim to provide farmers with support in making decisions when it comes to managing their farms and empower them with a sense of business. Farmers also benefit from this knowledge in the private sector, such as in managing their own family budgets.

Having a good sense of business and making farms more productive with management skills is the goal of the Farmer Business Schools. "The Farmer Business School has given us perspective. We will now plan everything precisely and follow up on matters and also implement a financial calendar . This will enable us to send our children to school with a greater deal of security and have money available for financial emergencies,“ says Vamissa Sayda, 51 years old and participant of a Farmer Business School.

By means of the courses, farmers are taught in correctly assessing crop fields to better determine the annual demand for inputs. They learn to manage their income and expenditure for agricultural activities and for managing the family budget. Another important feature of the trainings is to teach them how to estimate market and production risks as well as benefits and risks of loans. The need for reserve funds as a prerequisite for loans and for building up capital are further topics treated in the curriculum of the schools. The tasks to identify suitable foods that ensure that children in particular receive quality nutrition complete the schedule.

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Independent Auditors Verify that all CmiA Partners in Sub-Saharan Africa Grow Cotton According to CmiA Standard

According to the latest results of the independent verification companies AfriCert and EcoCert, all six CmiA partner countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have successfully completed verification according to CmiA criteria in 2013. Beyond adhering to exclusion criteria, the verification certifies the partners significant improvements in implementing sustainability criteria.

"The positive verification results are a great success for everyone involved. They illustrate that cotton companies as CmiA-partner attach significant importance to a constant improvement and a fair cooperation with the CmiA smallholder farmers as well as its employees in the cotton gins," said Christoph Kaut, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. The auditors verified the considerable success in training in field activities for all six cotton companies. In 16 cases, cotton companies showed improvements in meeting individual CmiA criteria compared to the previous year. Through regularly conducted on-site training in sustainable cultivation of cotton the participating smallholder farmers are increasingly implementing social and environmentally friendly practices in their farming. Approximately 90% of smallholder farmers already observe soil and water conversation. Roughly 8 of 10 cotton companies received verification that the smallholder farmers plant cotton crops in rotation with other staple foods.

A large majority of partners now meets the maximum requirements of the CmiA standards for pesticide management. However, the handling and storage of pesticides continue to be a problem in some regions, despite promotion of safety measures through e.g. protective clothing. On-site inspections suggest that in some countries, the smallholder farmers do not correctly implement the instructions provided in training sessions. This is one important field of activity for Cotton made in Africa in 2014. The cooperation between smallholder farmers and cotton companies shows itself as all around positive and fair. All CmiA smallholders now have written agreements. Cotton companies additionally provide smallholder farmers with transparent information on prices for inputs and cottonseed. After delivering their cotton, all smallholder farmers are paid after no later than 30 days. Furthermore, a total of 21 cotton ginneries were evaluated as part of the CmiA verifications. The result shows that almost all employees of the cotton ginneries, both full-time and seasonal employees, have written contracts, their pay is at least the national minimum wage, and they are free to assemble. Thus, 435,000 smallholder farmers and ten cotton companies received a renewed license to sell cotton with the CmiA seal of approval. The complete verification report can be found here: Aggregated Verification Report 2013

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United Nations International Women's Day on 3-08-2014

Nelifa Miti: CmiA farmer and member of the Women Cotton Club in Zambia; Photo: C. Hansen/AbTFStrong women are an essential key to sustainable development. The Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Initiative and the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (Compaci) are particularly committed to helping female cotton farmers in the producing regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. This support enables them to take their first steps towards economic independence. In total, currently around 85,000 women benefit from the program. This marks a positive result for this year's UN International Women's Day on March 8.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, improving the living conditions of smallholder farmers is directly associated with the advancement of women. "Since women play a major role in providing their families with food, measures to strengthen the role of women always improve the situation of the entire family in addition. Children in particular benefit the most from this," says Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. However, the female farmers have not yet been able to sufficiently benefit from their work on the farm and the fields thus far. As a result, CmiA has joined forces with Compaci to show their commitment to the rights and empowerment of women in the program.The local cotton companies assist in the implementation on the ground.

Women empowerment through training, funding, and raising awarenes

As part of its program for the advancement of women, the CmiA initiative has implemented a range of activities. These include adapting training in sustainable cotton production to the needs of female participants and training female cotton farmers to become lead farmers in order to strengthen their role within the training groups. Employees of the cotton companies receive training in gender equality and women's representatives are established as a regular contact person in the company. In addition, the female farmers involved receive easier access to loans and their own contracts with the cotton companies to earn their income. Currently 36 women's cooperatives each with at least 50 members in Côte d'Ivoire benefit from a financial start-up as part of a joint project. Overall, this project curently reaches up to 3,000 women. Roughly 85,000 farmers have so far been trained in sustainable cotton production, of which, approximately 32,300 are now organized in groups, and nearly 3,900 women attend business training.

A model for women empowerment are the more than 500 women's clubs, each with 25-50 members, which have been established in Zambia. They have an elected governing body and plant cotton as well as other crops together. The women reinvest the income they generate as a group, e.g. in the construction of a warehouse, in setting up a chicken farm, or in education for their children. One of these women is Nelifa Miti from the Chipata region, "Our club helps us to stand on our own two feet, both within the community as well as in the cotton production. I am a widow and have been able to take care of my family on my own – thanks to the club."

Cooperation with the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI): The successful pilot phase of Cotton made in Africa (2005–2008) convinced the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from the US and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to provide funding in order to expand the program as part of the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI) to more than a quarter of a million smallholder farmers as well as boost activities in ten African countries from 2009. The German Investment and Development Company (DEG), the KfW Development Loan Corporation, and the German International Cooperation (GIZ) were commissioned with implementing the program. Besides the Aid by Trade Foundation they are represented in the Management Board of the initiative. Local implementation partners are private cotton companies that are active in Africa.

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Initiative Publishes New Data on Production and Sales

CmiA grows furtherSmallholder cotton farmers in even more countries in Sub Saharan Africa cooperate with the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative. For the first time, smallholder farmers from Ghana profit from the CmiA program. Additionally, CmiA expands its work in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast. Currently, about 435,000 smallholder farmers and their family members included more than 3.2 Mil. people in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Ivory Coast und Ghana are part of the initiative. Thus, Cotton made in Africa significantly contributes to improving the living conditions of smallholder farmers in Sub Saharan Africa by means of aid by trade. Independant 3rd party organisations verify that the CmiA-cotton is grown and processed according to the sustainability criteria of the CmiA standard. That means that CmiA verified cotton is grown by smallholder farmers. In addition, participation in the program forbids slavery, human trafficking, child labor according to ILO conventions, deforestation of primary forests, or the use of genetically modified cotton.

On average, a CmiA farmer owns a 1.33-acre field for growing cotton. With his income he has to take care of his whole family of up to seven family members. International textile companies like PUMA, C&A, the Otto Group or Rewe are partnering with the initiative. They are specifically interested in purchasing sustainably produced CmiA-cotton, process the cotton into textiles and pay a licensing fee to the foundation. In 2007 Cotton made in Africa was introduced to the German market with 400,000 units, which grew to around 35 million textiles by 2013. For 2014 the initiative projects sales of around 45 million units.

The smallholder cotton farmers and their families directly profit from this positive development as the AbTF reinvests the licence income in the cotton growing regions, e.g. for agricultural trainings or community projects promoting the expansion of school infrastructures in rural areas.
Get to more about the new CmiA facts and figures here.

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Aid by Trade Foundation

Cotton made in Africa
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