The idea by Prof. Muhammad Yunus, an economist from Bangladesh, of helping the world's poorest people to help themselves out of their situation by offering them microcredits won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. He is strongly in favour of business-motivated and socially-oriented development ideas like that of the Aid by Trade Foundation and its initiative Cotton made in Africa. He is firmly convinced that "the future belongs to social business".
Muhammad Yunus is regarded by many people worldwide as the advocate of the poor. Grameen Bank, founded by him in Bangladesh in 1983, offers microcredits to the poorest people in the country so that they can start a business and earn their living independently. The bank has now tendered loans to more than 7.5 million credit recipients. Most of them are women, and the loans are sometimes as little as five dollars. Often that is all that is required. "To give handouts to people merely deprives them of any motivation to help themselves. The aim must be to help people to become independent," says Professor Yunus.
Yunus' idea remains one of the main instruments for poverty reduction. He points out that the economic interest should not focus on profit maximisation but on the greatest utility for the people concerned. "Only when social values are established in the market economy it will function for the poorest of the poor." The 71-year-old expert firmly believes that social business will continue to develop in the future.
The profit earned by a company is given back to those who have created it within a social business -- as with the Cotton made in Africa initiative, which transfer their profit by offering trainings and paying profit dividends for participating farmers.
During his visit at the Aid by Trade Foundation 7th of July 2011 Yunus underlines that Cotton made in Africa impressively demonstrates how a social business helps the poorest of the poor to help themselves: "The initiative is a win-win situation for the participating smallholders and Demand Alliance partners and shows how socially compatible trade with developing countries can work for the benefit of all concerned."
On the occasion of his travel to Hamburg Prof. Yunus discussed about the principles of the social business idea with the employees of the foundation and informed himself about the progress of the Cotton made in Africa initiative.
The Berlin film maker Züli Aladaĝ is a Kurd born in Turkey. He is very familiar with the subject of integration. His 2005 drama Wut (anger) and the feature film Die Fremde (The foreigner) both deal with it. He has now written and directed a documentary and feature film on behalf of the save our nature foundation about the African continent and the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative. He describes how the project came about, the challenges he encountered and the lessons he has learnt from his work in Africa.
Mr. Aladaĝ, could you tell us first of all briefly how this project came about and what prompted you to do it.
Aladaĝ: About eighteen months ago I met Thilo Graf Rothkirch. He's the chairman of save our nature and one of the most successful producers in Germany. He told me about his idea of producing a documentary and feature film on this subject -- and before long we were talking about me as director. As a film maker I feel a commitment to entertainment but also to social issues. So this project was naturally very interesting for me. Africa has occupied us Europeans for a long time, and yet we still make lots of mistakes. We asked ourselves what kind of impact initiatives like Cotton made in Africa, which strengthen trade with Africa, can possibly have.
And what was the answer?
Aladağ: A huge one! I was surprised to discover how such a large network could have developed in such a short time. The initiative has only been in existence for six years but the system is already working. The local growers identify strongly with CmiA and are proud to be part of the initiative. Not surprising: they have been able to increase their harvests by an average of 40 per cent, payments come on time, and they receive training to increase their yields even more. They are part of a reliable system -- and that motivates them.
Your documentary will also be about Cotton made in Africa.
Aladağ: Yes, the documentary explains the complex functioning of CmiA. The initiative takes a holistic approach: the cotton growers are given training in sustainable methods of cultivation and at the same time they have the possibility of selling their cotton on the world market through CmiA's partners. Together with the partners in Africa, CmiA helps people to stand on their own two feet, use their potential and break out of the cycle of poverty. This is what we show in the documentary.
Where will the film be shown?
Aladaĝ: The film will be made available to schools together with accompanying material. Then it will be up to the teachers to make their pupils aware of topics like Africa and sustainable trade. We are currently in the final phase and I believe we have a very interesting film. I would also learn a lot from it -- if I hadn't made it myself!
Apart from the documentary you're also working on a feature film on the same subject. Can you tell us something about it?
Aladaĝ: A little bit. The film tells the story of an eleven-year-old boy whose family lives from cotton growing. One day his father dies and it turns out that he wasn't his biological father. The boy sets off on a journey to the big city to find his real father. In the meantime, bad harvests and rising prices cause difficulties for his mother. The film is about the dependence of people on agriculture.
And that's where Cotton in Africa comes into the picture?
Aladaĝ: Yes. At some point the boy's mother hears about an initiative to help cotton growers to help themselves. The principle behind Cotton made in Africa is explained. The film shows how the mother manages to use her potential to improve her situation herself. There are some small successes and the future looks hopeful. At the end, for example, the village school that had burnt down at the beginning of the film, is rebuilt.
And the boy?
Aladaĝ: He finds his feet in the city. He even lives for a while with Bushmen. At the end he returns to his roots in the village. And that's all I'm going to tell you!
How did the idea for the film come about?
Aladaĝ: The basis for the screenplay was formed while we were travelling and filming the documentary. We spoke to lots of people in Benin and Zambia to get a feeling for their problems. We had a couple of ideas but it was not until a few weeks after our return that we were able to channel our impressions and develop the story.
You are an experienced film maker. What special challenges did this project present?
Aladaĝ: As Europeans we were faced with a key question from the outset: how could we talk credibly about Africa although we didn't live there and didn't have the same problems as the people there? We wanted to be truthful and not make a film about Africa through European eyes. That's why the story is told by an African and there is no "white identifying figure".
What impressions of Africa remain?
Aladağ: I was not surprised, but the optimism and the unassuming nature of the people are amazing. Their enjoyment of life, particularly the children, is inspiring. They were always the first to come up to us and pose before the camera. And they are also the key to Africa's hope for a better future. Africa needs a new self-awareness so as to meet the rest of the world on equal terms -- and education is the only way that they will be able to do so.
Finally, when can we expect to see the two films?
Aladaĝ: The documentary will be distributed to schools in early 2012. The feature film should be released two or three months later.
Education is the key to sustainable development. This is one of the basic principles of the Cotton made in Africa initiative and reason enough for the Otto Group to join the Demand Alliance and help finance an adult literacy project in Burkina Faso.
Illiteracy in Burkina Faso runs at around 71 per cent. The fact that almost three quarters of the population cannot read or write is a great handicap to the country's economic development and repeatedly presents Cotton made in Africa smallholders with quite specific problems. Many cannot remember the contents of the training courses, for example, because they cannot take notes or read the training material. This means that a lot of potential is going to waste. The literacy project will help these smallholders to help themselves.
The public-private partnership (PPP) project was launched in autumn 2009 through Cotton made in Africa by the fashion company Apart, Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (German Investment and Development Company) and Welthungerhilfe. They were joined early this year by the Otto Group, which is providing concrete support for the work in Burkina Faso. "Improving literacy is key to a sustainable development process," says Andreas Streubig, head of Corporate Responsibility in the Otto Group. Some 5,000 adults in the centre south region have had the opportunity to date to attend evening classes to learn to read and write. They reap the rewards on a daily basis, being able now for the first time to read the instructions for fertilisers, for example. Women in particular are taking advantage of this opportunity.
Cotton made in Africa is not only a supporter of the sustainable cultivation of African cotton but also sees itself as a broker for such PPP projects, which call on the combined efforts of businesses and public organisations to strengthen the social infrastructure in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Zambia and Malawi.
Beaches, mountains and the ocean -- visitors of the country at the Cape of Good Hope are fascinated by the unique landscape. Now a piece of South Africa will be transferred to Europe in terms of a collection of home textiles that has been created during the cooperation between Cotton made in Africa, the company Tchibo and the young South African Clayton Emile Coutriers.
The landscapes of South Africa have exerted its influence on the young and nature-loving designer since his childhood, which he spent in a rural area of the country. The beauty of the seasons and the glorious play of colours of the flora and fauna are important sources of his inspiration and decisively influenced his work for the bedding collection "Africa Dreams" for Tchibo. It was very important for Coutriers that the collection was totally made out of Cotton made in Africa cotton: "By cooperating with Tchibo I have the chance to support trade with Africa and it gives me great pleasure to be able to contribute to the success of the Cotton made in Africa initiative."
The engagement for sustainability of the young designer, who will not be graduating until the end of 2011 at the "Tshwane University of Technology", has already been awarded: With his cushion collection "Dance of a Thousand Seasons" the young artist won the "Green Designers competition" that had been set up by Woolworth and the magazine House & Leisure in 2009.
As important as an environmentally responsible attitude to nature is his role as ambassador for the South African design. With the collection "African Dreams" he wants to show how modern and contemporary design from South Africa can look like and likewise contribute to strengthen the importance of South African design in Europe. "The African design culture has a good outlook to inspire the international market."
The textiles from the cooperation will be available in Tchibo outlets and its online shop under www.tchibo.de from 12 July 2011.
'Cotton made in Africa' Initiative's Positive Water Reduction
Research Finds CmiA's Sustainable Farming & Rainwater Usage Reduces Water-Use by 1,585 Gallons per T-Shirt
An independent study conducted by the WWF evidenced that the "Cotton made in Africa" (CmiA) initiative's sustainable farming techniques saves up to 1,585 gallons of water for the production of cotton needed per one t-shirt. This immense saving is derived from the fact that within the CmiA initiative, only rainwater is used for cotton production. The efficient use of rainwater is part of CmiA's sustainable farming techniques that are demonstrated during the training of smallholder cotton farmers within the CmiA initiative. Overall, the efficient and environmentally friendly farming practices introduced have tripled the yield, generating more income for the small farmers in Sub-Sahara Africa.
The June 15 webinar will be on production, focusing on CSR benefits and the June 16 webinar will be on sourcing, focusing on supply chain benefits.
The webinars are organised by CmiA in cooperation with SAI that officially represents CmiA in the US since March 2010, introducing CmiA to American companies and helping them to start using the initiative's socially responsible cotton.
June 15, 2011 - 12:00PM EDT
Webinar on production, focusing on CSR benefits. >>Register now
Presenter: Craig Moss (SAI) & Tina Stridde/Christian Barthel (CmiA)
June 16, 2011 - 4:00PM EDT
Webinar on sourcing, focusing on supply chain benefits >>Register now
Presenter: Craig Moss (SAI) & Tina Stridde/Christian Barthel (CmiA)
To read more go to: http://www.sa-intl.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewPage&pageID=1109&nodeID=1
* SAI: Social Accountability International
The Aid by Trade Foundation welcomes a new member to its Board of Trustees. James Shikwati, renowned for his criticism of classic development aid, will provide assistance in the Foundation's activities and the achievement of its future objectives.
The charismatic Kenyan James Shikwati is a staunch supporter of market liberalism and is convinced that Africa's development should rely on free trade. He explains his commitment to the Aid by Trade Foundation: "I support the Foundation and its initiative because it gives African smallholders access to the world market. I believe that those who want to help Africa should trade with the continent and see to it that goods are processed locally in order to increase the added value in the country of origin."
Shikwati was born in 1970 and grew up in Rift Valley province in western Kenya. He studied from 1990 to 1995 at the University of Nairobi and worked after graduating as a geography, sociology and ethics teacher at Kiptewit High School in Kenya. In 2001 he turned his back on teaching to devote his energies to economics. At the age of just thirty years he founded the first liberal market research institute in Africa, the Inter-Region Economic Network (IREN), in Nairobi. Since then, the self-taught economist Shikwati has been a dedicated supporter of the development of Africa and of market liberalism. He has written numerous articles and commentaries on economic themes and has worked as a consultant for organisations such as the Africa Resource Bank and Newcastle University. In 2008 the World Economic Forum named him one of the 250 Young Global Leaders.
He is now a member of the Board of Trustees of the Aid by Trade Foundation and is supporting the Foundation in achieving its objectives in Africa. He took part last week in his first Board meeting and is already fully involved in the Foundation's work, where his experience and network of contacts will be an enormous bonus.
Members of the Board of Trustees of the Aid by Trade Foundation include leading international personalities from environmental associations, research institutions and the business world such as Nicholas Earlam, CEO of Plexus Cotton in Liverpool, and Ibrahim Malloum, representative of the government of Chad responsible for the development of local textile production. Chaired by Michael Otto, it ensures that the Foundation's core aims -- improving the social situation in Africa and promoting environmental protection -- are implemented in the long term.