According to the results of the African Economic Outlook 2015, 60 percent of the African population is employed in agriculture, including the cotton industry. The sector generates around 25 percent of global gross national product. For the most part it is dependent on exports. African cotton supply is increasing, although profits from the cultivation of cotton are stagnating and yields are below average. We discussed this with Christian Barthel, in his capacity as Director of Supply Chain Management of the Cotton made in Africa Initiative (CmiA).
COTTON REPORT: MR BARTHEL, LOOKING AHEAD TO THE COMING YEARS, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR AFRICA?
Christian Barthel: The population in Africa will triple by 2050. Development through the modernisation of local economies, including the agricultural sector, is essential. Africa exports a large part of its raw materials. This is also the case with cotton. An essential task is to promote a process of industrialisation in cotton growing countries in the direction of downstream products such as spinning and weaving, or even clothing. More production plants near where the cotton is grown would lead to more employment opportunities and sources of income for local people.
IN AFRICA, THE YIELDS PER COTTON ACREAGE ARE STILL COMPARATIVELY LOW. WHAT HAVE YOU ACHIEVED TO MAKE CMIA COTTON MORE PROFITABLE?
Initial studies have shown that the farmers who grow their cotton according to CmiA criteria generate around 20 percent higher yields. On top of that CmiA cotton ensures timely and transparent payment, pre-financing of inputs and fair working conditions in the gins. With our projects we are now working in 10 African countries in the sub-Saharan region. Cotton verified under the CmiA standard is likely to account for just under 25 percent of the supply from sub-Saharan Africa. From 2008 until the end of 2015, CmiA licensed products will have generated license revenue of around EUR 6 million to invest for the benefit of African farmers and their families.
HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE THIS?
On the one hand, we achieve this with the establishment of an alliance of textile companies that integrate CmiA cotton into their chains and thus build solid and long-term trade relations with Africa. On the other hand we provide intensive and permanent training measures in cotton farming or in business management knowledge that will help them control their income and expenditure. In addition, modern, efficient and environmentally friendly farming practices help to reduce their spending, thereby increasing revenues. For example, we focus on measures of watchful, preventative, but also actively engaging pest management. Smallholders learn to distinguish pests from beneficial organisms and to increasingly use biological pest control methods such as molasses traps. Pesticides of the Rotterdam Convention, Stockholm list, WHO classes 1a and b are completely forbidden in CmiA.
IN MARKETING THE PRODUCT, THE CONSISTENT QUALITY OF THE COTTON AVAILABLE FOR PROCESSING PLAYS AN ESSENTIAL ROLE. HOW DO YOU CONTRIBUTE TO THIS DURING CULTIVATION?
At the consumer level, CmiA is perceived as a sustainability label, but in the B2B market it is seen as a product with a certain quality. In the marketing it is clear that we offer hand-picked cotton. It has a staple length of between 27 - 29 millimetres. We therefore offer a quality that is very well suited for use in the mass market. Because the cotton is picked by hand, we recommend that the mills ensure thorough cleaning before their further processing. At the same time, our training in cultivation means that contamination by foreign bodies is reduced. In addition, there are projects of partial mechanisation running at harvest time.
WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR DOING WITHOUT THE USE OF GMO COTTON?
Firstly, when selling our cotton we are a European-styled initiative and for European consumers, sustainability and genetic engineering are irreconcilable opposites. Many of our demand partners also view the issue very critically. There is still too little known about the long-term effects of the use of GM seed and whether it brings long-term economic benefits to farmers. We have therefore decided to go our own way and to achieve increases in quality and economic yields using other methods.
WHY IS BUILDING UP A TEXTILE AND CLOTHING INDUSTRY ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT FOR COTTON IN AFRICA?
It is important to also process a portion of the cotton produced in Africa in the producing countries themselves, so that added value ranging from raw materials to the final product is created within the continent. This leads to growth, both on the domestic market as well as in worldwide exports. African products could increase their share in international supply chains due to attractive production costs. This is important especially in the sub-Saharan region. The first initiatives for this can be seen in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya. With Cotton made in Africa, we can also create a local and readily available sustainable basis for a completely African product. The current challenge is to build up the necessary infrastructure. Here, we are just at the beginning. We assume that the development will take about another three to five years.
WHAT DO YOU CONTRIBUTE IN THE AREA OF SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT?
We advise partners in the cost-neutral integration of CmiA cotton in their procurement channels and the optimum use of its products. This is done, for example, in the form of training for employees in purchasing departments and in the import offices of organisations abroad. In addition, there is training for spinning mills, textile merchants and textile and clothing manufacturers. This is carried out in relevant procurement markets such as China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and also in Germany. Thus, we support companies operatively in achieving their sustainability goals. This helps licensees considerably in saving additional costs. This is very important for use in the mass market. There is no elaborate certification of the entire textile chain in Cotton made in Africa. If companies wish, CmiA can provide full traceability in the textile chain back to the cotton bales. To continue to promote the issue of sustainable raw materials and supply chains, we are an active member of the German Textile Alliance. Here, Cotton made in Africa is recognised as a standard with which companies can put their textile chain on a sustainable basis.
THANK YOU FOR THE INTERVIEW!
With thanks to Bremen Cotton Exchange for making the interview available.
Source: Bremen Cotton Report Nr. 41/42 - 22. October
Throughout the year, the Aid by Trade Foundation is engaged in various events and stakeholder meetings to inform about its Cotton made in Africa initiative, present its work and discuss about developments and future strategies. Here we would like to inform you about future events that concern the large range of our work - from cotton production over the supply chain management up to the retail market. We are looking forward to meeting you.
- 12.-15.01. Heimtextil Messe Frankfurt, Germany
- 15.-18.02. Texworld Paris - CmiA Conference 16.02. 14h30
- 16.-18.03. Bremer Baumwollbörse Conference Bremen, Germany (by invitation only)
- 12.05. "The Certification of Agricultural Products as a Key Driver of Sector Transformation" by GIGA with CmiA, WWF and Welthungerhilfe
28.06.-01.07. CmiA and Fashion for Teams @ Fashion Week Berlin (Greenshowroom & Ethical Fashion Show)
- 21.-23.7. TexWorld New York City USA
- 21.-22.7. Premiere Vision New York City, USA
- 08.2015 CmiA Workshop on Child Labour, Ivory Coast (by invitation only)
- 03.-05.08. CmiA Supply Chain Management Workhop, Morocco (by invitation only)
- 01.09. CmiA Workshop on bio-intensive IPPM / botanical pesticides Mwanza, Tanzania (by invitation only)
- 03.09. CmiA Workshop on bio-intensive IPPM / botanical pesticides Lusaka, Zambia (by invitation only)
- 07.09. CmiA Workshop on GAP Picture Block (East Africa Version) Lusaka, Zambia (by invitation only)
- 21.09. Africa Business Communities Networking Event Hamburg, Germany
- 29.09. Conference (Südwind/Clean Clothes Campaign): "Hard work für soft fibers. Approaches to overcome labor rights violations in cotton production." Düsseldorf, Germany
- 08.10. AFCOT Meeting Deauville, France
- 20.10. CmiA & COMPACI 9th Stakeholder Conference Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (by invitation only)
- 21.-23.10. ORIGIN AFRICA Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
With its latest cooperation with Dutch service enterprise AfricanWise, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) has put down another marker for Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) on the international markets. The AbTF will be working with Frans de Pater, founder and director of AfricanWise, in order to establish the demand for Cotton made in Africa cotton in the Netherlands. The aim of the Foundation is to get sustainable cotton from Africa flowing in and out of international textile companies and, in so doing, to create a situation from which all can profit – the textile companies, the consumers and, not least, the smallholders and their families in Africa.
"We want to show Dutch companies that sustainability and profitability can go hand in hand with each other because with Cotton made in Africa they gain access to a socially, ecologically and economically sustainable raw material which is an asset for all – the textile companies, the consumers and the cotton farmers in Africa," said Tina Stridde, director of the Aid by Trade Foundation in Hamburg, explaining the reasons for the partnership with Afri-canWise. Partners like PUMA, the Rewe Group, the Otto Group and Tchibo have long been committed to Cotton made in Africa, demonstrating that the Cotton made in Africa concept is working.
Frans de Pater, new representative of the Aid by Trade Foundation in the Netherlands and director of AfricanWise, is delighted at the new partnership. "Cotton made in Africa is a great opportunity for textile companies in the Netherlands," he said, "because the initiative combines an attitude of social responsibility and stewardship with entrepreneurial thinking. CmiA cotton is always available at market prices and is made into textiles all over the world. This establishes not only the authenticity of the products but also their flexibility." De Pater has over 25 years of experience of working with inno-vative business concepts in international B2B and B2C contexts, both in Europe and in Africa. He has a firm background in various industries including the textiles and garment sector.
Cotton made in Africa is currently working with over 650,000 cotton farmers in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Experts train the smallholders in sustainable cultivation methods which protect the environment and increase their crop and therefore their income. The communities in rural Africa also receive assistance by way of water and sanitation projects, initiatives in support of women, and investment in the school infrastructure. CmiA has already reached over five million people in this way if family members are included. Several reviews show that helping people to help themselves is an approach which is well received. Independent accredited auditors conduct regular checks to verify that the sustainability criteria for the Cotton made in Africa standard are being met. The CmiA seal of approval is only given to cotton which is shown to meet the specifications set out to achieve the standard. Scientific studies, such as the research conducted by PE INTERNATIONAL, also underline the fact that Cotton made in Africa is mak-ing a difference in respect of the environment, with proof that the sustaina-ble growing methods adopted for Cotton made in Africa cotton are reducing negative environmental impact and global climate change. Every kilogram of cotton fiber represents a saving of over 2000 liters of water in compari-son with the global average and a reduction of up to 40% in greenhouse gas emissions in contrast with conventional cotton.
AfricanWise is founded by Frans de Pater and Alex Sijmonsma and supports trade between Europe and Sub Saharan Africa. With the belief that all social classes should benefit from growth, African Wise develops and executes ‘inclusive’ business models. As cultural understanding is essential to success-fully do business African Wise has created a vast network of Project Partners, all having worked and lived in Africa. Its focus lies on agriculture, manufacturing as well as the textile and garment industry.
From fashion to sporting and lifestyle - every week our partner Tchibo offers a new world of products to its consumers. Not only the quality values high for Tchibo. The company is committed to ensure that the production does not harm people and the environment. This raises many questions: What are the raw materials used for products? What is the impact of the production on the environment? How do the people who produce the raw materials for the products live, and what are the conditions under which the products are manufactured?
As a family company Tchibo takes responsibility seriously and has incorporated aspects of sustainable development into its business strategy since 2006. Therefore, they constantly pursue their goal of 100% sustainability for their business and rely on proven standards such as Cotton made in Africa. To know the standard more in detail, Mr. Coffeebean follows the red thread. In the clip down below, he is having a closer look on Cotton made in Africa:
What is the Green Africa Directory and what inspired you to create it?
The Green Africa Directory is a pan-African, online network of organisations with solutions for sustainable development. It’s also a hub for news and information on the environment and sustainability across the continent - featuring green news, jobs, events and other information. I was inspired to start the Green Africa Directory when I discovered how challenging it could be to find contacts for organisation operating in Africa in the sustainability sector - and when I discovered that there was no comprehensive online platform to bring together and connect the sustainability sector in Africa.
When was it started?
The organisation was founded in 2012. The seed was planted when I worked in the environmental NGO sector and found that it was often challenging to find contacts for other organisations doing related environmental work in different countries and cities across Africa. I searched for networks connecting people and organisations working on various aspects of sustainability in Africa - from biodiversity and conservation to climate change and environmental management - and when I found that there was no pan-African online network doing this - I was inspired to start one myself. I also envisaged the network as being more than just a directory of organisations working on sustainability in Africa - to include actively facilitating connections and collaboration, creating awareness for environmental initiatives and campaigns, and providing access to information on green jobs, green events and courses, and other resources relevant to people working in the sustainability sector in Africa.
Who is the person that founded stands behind the Green Africa Directory??
I started the Green Africa Directory in 2012, with the help of some very skilled website developers and designers. Since then I have been working hard to scale the reach of the network by promoting it in social media, forming strategic partnerships, increasing the number of organizations profiled on the directory and expanding our online readership.
What does it aim to achieve and what has already been accomplished?
We aim to provide a green networking platform that facilitates interaction, collaboration and the sharing of ideas and solutions that will lead Africa towards a sustainable development path. We want to help create a future in Africa that ensures well-being, environmental sustainability, alleviation of poverty, resource efficiency and more resilient communities through scaling and supporting initiatives that provide sustainable solutions, services and products. Our network brings together civil society, business, industry, academia and government - because everyone needs to be involved in transitioning towards a greener and truly sustainable future. Over the past three years we have been able to achieve a growing reach - with over 80,000 people using and engaging with our network. We are also actively involved in connecting organisations within our network with relevant opportunities and contacts.
What partnerships have you formed and why are they important?
The Green Africa Directory connects with thousands of people and organisations working in the environmental sustainability field in Africa and globally. We have also created a number of strategic partnerships with organisations that share our goals for a better world. For example, we are endorsing partners of the Global Netzwork on Sustainable Innovation and Entrepeneurship, The Global Network on Sustainable Lifestyles, we are a 100% Green flagship, we are an African highlight on the United Nations Sustainable Production and Consumption Clearinghouse; we’re an official UNEP Think Eat Save campaign supporter; and we continue to enter into media partnerships with important conferences around the world including The World Future Energy Summit, SusCon and Africa Utility Week.
Why did you choose to profile CmiA and AbTF on the Green Africa Directory?
We are delighted to have Cotton made in Africa and the Aid by Trade Foundation initiative profiled on the Green Africa Directory, because it is a leading example of solutions for sustainable development in Africa that have the power to transform agriculture and forestry into sustainable practices. They also contribute towards sustainable livelihoods and poverty alleviation in Africa. We are keen to let people learn more about organisations and initiatives like these, so that they learn about sustainable agriculture and forestry and the impact these practices have on the natural environment and lives of communities - but also to raise awareness about how people can contribute towards a sustainable future for Africa through their buying power and through collaboration and partnerships.
What is the impact of the Green Africa Directory on the establishment of a green African economy? What has been your greatest success so far?
A green economy is defined by UNEP as one that one provides “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” The organisations profiled on the Green Africa Directory offer sustainable products and services and we aim to help them increase their market share and help them raise awareness and supporters - thereby facilitating the transition towards greener and more resilient African economies. I feel that our greatest success is the number of people and organisations using our platform annually and the growth in number of organisations choosing to be profiled on our directory. This shows that there is a real need for a platform like ours - to provide a means of connecting people and organisations globally who are working to achieve sustainable development in Africa.
What are your future plans for the Green Africa Directory?
We’d like to continue to grow the number of people using our platform, as well as the number of organisations profiled on the directory so that it becomes a truly indispensable resource for anyone working in the sustainability sector in Africa. We have many plans for scaling the impact of the work we do and are currently looking for sponsors to help us expand and accelerate our work.
About Kate Berrisford
I am from (and live in) Cape Town, South Africa. In 2013, through my work at the Green Africa Directory, I received recognition from the AfriCAN Climate for my contribution to raising awareness of climate change issues in Africa.
Get to know more on: www.greenafricadirectory.org
Following successful verification in accordance with the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) sustainability standard, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) will now be involved in sustainable cotton farming in North-Western Ethiopia, supporting over 9,000 smallholder farmers. The Foundation cooperates locally with the Ethiopian Cotton Producers, Exporters and Ginners Association (ECPGEA). As a result, the initiative now reaches over 5 million people in Africa.
"With the addition of Ethiopia, there are now round about 650,000 smallholder farmers growing cotton according to the CmiA sustainability standards. With their family members included, this totals over 5.5 million people in 10 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our standard is specifically aimed at smallholder farmers in our project countries who only have a small plot of land and who are most in need of support. In order to protect the environment and vital resources, the exploitation of primary forests is forbidden, as is encroachment into established protected areas, the use of genetically modified seeds, and artificial irrigation," said Christoph Kaut, Managing Director of the Foundation. Last year, over 150,000 tonnes of cotton were produced in accordance with the CmiA standard. As a result of the latest successful verifications in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Cameroon, the quantity of CmiA-verified cotton produced will rise again significantly in 2015. With the CmiA standard, the Foundation is campaigning for social justice for cotton farmers and workers in the ginning factories, healthy living conditions, and the protection of the environment. As well as benefitting from agricultural and business training, the CmiA partnership also means that smallholder farmers can rely on fair contracts with the cotton companies and reliable payment for their crops.