Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and the Deichtorhallen Hamburg are sending star photographer Albert Watson to Benin. Over the next two weeks, Watson will photograph the cotton farmers who work with the initiative. The resulting pictures will be displayed next year in the House of Photography as part of an exhibition of Albert Watson's work entitled "Albert Watson -- Memories and Visions feat. Faces of Africa".
Cotton made in Africa promotes the cultivation of sustainably produced cotton in Africa to improve the living conditions of the 240,000 smallholder farmers currently active in the initiative. This exceptional collaboration with fashion and commercial photographer Albert Watson will provide insight into the cotton farmers' world and transport a better awareness of Africa and CmiA's work. "It is all about rendering the people behind this initiative visible: Who is Cotton made in Africa really? Who are the people behind it and what do their lives look like?" explains Tina Stridde, Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, the CmiA's sponsoring organisation. The photos will illustrate the initiative's goal to improve social conditions in the smallholder farmers' lives. In addition to the cotton harvest, currently underway, Watson will also visit traditional markets and a tribal king in Benin to get an impression of the diversity of life in Benin and its people.
The completed photographs are scheduled for exhibition from 14 September 2012 to 6 January 2013 in the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. The "Albert Watson -- Memories and Visions feat. Faces of Africa" exhibition will be part of a show that includes the photographer's vintage and Polaroid works never shown before. Curator Ingo Taubhorn notes: "Albert Watson is well-known as a fashion and celebrity photographer, but he is so much more: He toils uncompromisingly on the image and can just as easily turn his scrutinizing gaze on social realities. Which is why I am looking forward to seeing what stories the smallholder farmers will tell in his pictures."
Albert Watson is a living legend in fashion and commercial photography. His prominent motifs include stars like Mick Jagger, Alfred Hitchcock, Kate Moss, Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson, to name just a few. In addition to famous people, Watson also enjoys photographing the people he meets during his travels. In 1998 he published "Morocco", an illustrated book that has often been described as a visual hymn in honour of that African country.
About the exhibition
The "Albert Watson -- Memories and Visions feat. Faces of Africa" exhibition will be held from 14 September 2012 to 6 January 2013 in the House of Photography in the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. The exhibit consists of two parts: Albert Watson's newly created photographs of Benin from December 2011 comprise its heart. They depict smallholder farmers who work with the Cotton made in Africa initiative and visualize the social effects of the initiative. The accompanying exhibition will show never before published vintage and Polaroid works from the famed fashion and commercial photographer.
C&A, one of Europe's leading fashion groups, today joins the Cotton made in Africa initiative's Demand Alliance. In 2012 the company plans to take up 1,000 tonnes of sustainably produced African cotton for its textile products. This additional demand supports the initiative in improving the living conditions of some 240,000 smallholder farmers and their families in Benin, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Malawi and Ivory Coast.
The Cotton made in Africa initiative thus gains an important partner and further strengthens its international Demand Alliance. C&A is not only a very strong brand but also a company that places great importance on sustainable and responsible business. "We're happy to respond to our customers' demand for fashion produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable way", says Phil Chamberlain, Head of Sustainable Business Development at C&A. "Cotton made in Africa offers us a great opportunity to use a high-value raw material with added social value in our textiles." With this sustainably produced cotton, C&A widens its already extensive engagement in the organic cotton sector. In 2012 it plans to take up 1,000 tonnes of African cotton; in 2013, 1,500 tonnes and in 2014, 2,000 tonnes of Cotton made in Africa are to be processed into C&A textiles.
"Rather than sending financial donations to Africa we're being proactive in helping create stable demand on the global market for sustainably produced African cotton", is how Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, explains the initiative's approach. "Gaining C&A as a Demand Alliance Partner is a great success for us on the European market." Cotton made in Africa provides participating smallholder farmers with cultivation methods that both conserve the environment and raise crop yields, while providing training and education for adults and children. Besides C&A the Otto Group, PUMA, Anvil and Tchibo are also Demand Alliance Partners.
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.
Reliable Hosiery is the first Canadian company to join the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) demand alliance. The Aid by Trade Foundation, CmiA's supporting organization, and the Canadian hosiery manufacturer signed a contract last week. This agreement further strengthens and expands CmiA's international demand alliance and will grow the distribution end of the initiative. Having a direct effect on the smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, the initiative works with and ultimately supports sustainable cotton cultivation.
Founded in 1959, Reliable Hosiery is the leading manufacturer of hosiery products in Canada. Unusual for a North American garment firm, its entire production line is still located in Montreal. "Taking responsibility is important to us," said Hermann Gruenwald, president and owner of Reliable Hosiery. He strongly believes that even in a highly competitive global economy, retailers and consumers have a desire to support sustainable initiatives like this one. "This applies equally to our employees here in Canada and to the people who produce the raw materials for our products."
Cotton made in Africa provides a source of cotton that is both environmentally and socially friendly and as such contributes directly to changing the lives of smallholder farmers in Africa for the better.
Reliable Hosiery plans to offer an individual collection of Cotton made in Africa products and to emphasize the special raw materials in their public relations. Both partners have agreed on exclusivity in Canada for the hosiery products. "With Reliable Hosiery we have brought a highly motivated customer on board who will work closely with us to establish Cotton made in Africa in Canada. We are looking forward to working together," Aid by Trade Foundation Managing Director Tina Stridde said.
Cotton made in Africa works with five African countries and a total of 240,000 smallholder farmers. The initiative's most important goals are to improve farmers' incomes and improve environmental protection in cotton production. To this end the initiative focuses in particular on teaching more efficient cultivation methods through training measures and on increasing the demand of an alliance of textile companies in Europe and North America. Over 20 companies have joined the CmiA initiative and use the cotton to produce their textiles. They pay a small licence fee to the initiative which is passed on to the project countries in keeping with the foundation's credo to help people help themselves through trade. For the outreach to the North American market the Cotton made in Africa initiative is working together with the human rights organization Social Accountability International (SAI) based in New York City. SAI supports the initiative by working to improve the social performance of the spinning mills involved and introducing the program to North American companies.
The Otto Group and the Aid by Trade Foundation have launched a project to promote Zambia's school infrastructure. With the cooperation of the Dunavant Zambia cotton company and the Deutschen Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG, the German investment and development company), the project will ensure that around 7,000 girls and boys in the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative project region will soon have better access to education.
The goals of this cooperative project are to enable as many children as possible to attend school and to improve school infrastructure as a whole. "Education is the key to a better future. Thus, if we want to strive for sustainable development in Africa, we have to start with the education of children. This is why we support this Aid by Trade Foundation project", says Andreas Streubig, Head of Corporate Responsibility for the Otto Group. A variety of Otto Group companies are partners to the Cotton made in Africa initiative, which is dedicated to improving the living conditions of African smallholder farmers.
The project that the Otto Group supports with 150,000 € includes plans for building six new school buildings. This will give many children from isolated rural regions access to a school closer to their villages, so they no longer have to endure the often very long, tiring and dangerous walk to school. Smaller classes and well-equipped classrooms will ensure every pupil has a desk and offer a quieter learning environment. The curriculum will also include a very special subject: classes held in school gardens will teach children important aspects of growing cotton and vegetables sustainably. This integrates key knowledge about environmentally-friendly and efficient agricultural technologies directly into the children's regular class work.
In Zambia, children are officially required to attend school from forms 1 to 7. The country's extreme poverty, however, complicates a well-working school infrastructure as well as the maintenance and equipment of the buildings. Classes of up to 60 pupils are not unusual in Zambia. Also, access to clean water and electricity is the exception rather than the rule for many schools.
To improve living conditions for African smallholder farmers, the Cotton made in Africa initiative is focusing on social projects in Africa in addition to promoting sustainable cotton cultivation. These are funded and carried out in cooperation with local African partners, companies, partners and the public sector.
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.