Cotton is the most widely used raw material for global textile production and the livelihood of millions of people in Africa. In East African Ethiopia, cotton is both farmed and manufactured into textiles for international trade. Rather than merely exporting this "white gold", the country invests in the development of the entire textile value chain. This development is pursued by the international textile industry with great interest and was also at the top of the agenda at this year’s Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and the COMPACI Stakeholder Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The host country of this year's CmiA and COMPACI Stakeholder Conference was Ethiopia, which since this year numbers among the Cotton made in Africa cotton-farming countries and, according to McKinsey, is a textile production location with a high potential for growth. Tadesse Haile, State Minister for Industry in Ethiopia, opened the meeting. In his speech, he made reference to the impressive collaboration of Cotton made in Africa and COMPACI with thousands of smallholder cotton farmers throughout Africa who are creating an indispensable foundation for the development of the growing cotton industry. In his speech, Jaswinder Bedi, Managing Director of African Cotton and Textiles Industries Federation (ACTIF), also emphasized the immense significance that the development of the textile value chains has in Africa, since it gives millions of people job opportunities and thus prevents social disasters that would force people to flee to Europe.
The efforts of CmiA and COMPACI to continuously improve environmental protection and promote small farming families who are at the bottom of the textile chain and for whom CmiA and COMPACI are campaigning in the context of growing textile production have been lively debated. In particular, activities to promote women and the use of bio-pesticides were discussed. Another topic was the development of the Farmer Business Schools that convey basic business concepts to the CmiA smallholder farmers and promote their economic autonomy.
The conference day was complemented by visiting AYKA ADDIS Textile & Investment Group PLC, a vertically integrated textile production plant, and Kanoria Africa Textiles PLC, a manufacturer of Jeans fabrics. Both companies are dedicated to protecting the environment and maintaining social standards. For both companies, the raw material Cotton made in Africa plays an important role. Tina Stridde, Managing Director of Cotton made in Africa, sums up: "We are pleased, with CmiA in Ethiopia, to supply the basis for a textile industry in which sustainability plays a crucial role from the fields all the way to the product. This can contribute to better value creation in Ethiopia and help millions of people gain employment and prosperity.”
Since it was founded in June 2005, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF), launched by Dr. Michael Otto, and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative have successfully supported smallholders in Africa, protected the environment and established trade relationships between international textile companies and African cotton farmers on a level playing field. To mark the 10th anniversary, Dr. Michael Otto is investing €1 million into the newly-launched Cotton made in Africa cooperation program to continue supporting communities in rural Africa.
It was 10 years ago that Dr. Michael Otto laid the foundation for a socially and ecologically sustainable production of cotton from Africa and for helping African smallholder farmers to help themselves with the Aid by Trade Foundation and its Cotton made in Africa initiative. What began with 150,000 cotton producers in three countries is now one of the largest projects in German development cooperation with Africa. In its anniversary year, the initiative is active in 10 Sub-Saharan African countries, cooperates with 650,000 smallholders, and reaches a total of over 5.5 million people. The smallholders have been able to increase their yields by approximately 20% during their partnership with CmiA. From 2008 to the end of 2014, more than 660,000 metric tons of ginned CmiA cotton were used for textiles worldwide and more than 100 million garments with the CmiA sustainability seal were put on sale by partner companies. These textiles represent responsible fashion and set an example for socially and ecologically sustainable economy. From 2008 to the end of 2014, licensed CmiA products brought in an income of almost €5 million for AbTF, which was able to invest it for the benefit of African farming families. The foundation once again improved its program service expense ratio in 2014 by almost 2% to 68.9%. This describes the effectiveness of the means employed to achieve foundation’s objectives in relation to overall expenditure. Overall, Cotton made in Africa is emphasizing that sustainability and economic viability do not have to be mutually exclusive and instead that all parties can profit from it.
Also in future, Cotton made in Africa will be devoting itself to the task of providing a raw material suitable for the mass market which reconciles economy and sustainability and from which smallholders profit directly. The CmiA cooperation program will also be launched to mark the initiative's 10th anniversary. In the spirit of the foundation's mission, it will support projects in the areas of education, health, the advancement of women, and natural conservation in the Cotton made in Africa growing regions. Project funding applications will come directly from the CmiA growing regions and be financed via contributions from private donors. Dr. Michael Otto is leading by example and provides the program with a starting capital of €1 million.
Get to know more about CmiA's development in the course of its history and its most important milestones between 2005 and 2015 here.
You would like to get to know more about CmiA' activities in work in 2014? Have a look at our Annual Report for2014 here.
780 people around the world lack access to safe drinking water. 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation facilities. 4 billion people – many of them chil-dren under 5 years of age – suffer from related, often fatal ill-nesses. Effective immediately, OTTO Austria, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF), the Welthungerhilfe and the Deutsche Inves-titions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) with funds from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development are taking action. Together they are investing EUR 320,000 in order to promote the supply of clean water and sanitation facili-ties in the rural regions of Zimbabwe.
According to the United Nations, most diseases in developing countries are caused by inadequate sanitation facilities and lack of safe drinking water. This is where the project comes into play: "To fight poverty and create op-portunities for sustainable development, we initiated the project for safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities in the CmiA growing regions in Zimbabwe," explains Alexandra Perschau, project manager at the Aid by Trade Foundation. "On the way to achieving our goal of 100% sustainable cotton by 2020, we support this project in order to do our part to improve living conditions and the economic prospects of the cotton farmers who sustainably produce the raw material, which is of such crucial importance to us," explains Mag. Georg Glinz, spokesman for OTTO Austria.
Boreholes and sanitation facilities are being built and refurbished in a total of 20 villages in the cotton-producing region of South Gokwe. To ensure that the project has the greatest possible long-term effect in terms of sustainabil-ity, awareness for health-promoting measures is being raised with training courses and campaigns. Committees specially created for the project will make sure that the boreholes are used in a sustainable manner and act as an interface for the local communities. The project training courses and campaigns address nearly 5,000 pupils, who will be trained as "hygiene am-bassadors" and will act as multipliers and share their knowledge with their families.
"For us, mobilizing young people is an important part of this project. This ensures that the local communities will be able to independently use the infrastructure provided to improve health and hygiene once the project is completed", stresses Michael Hofmann, head of marketing at Welthun-gerhilfe.
An above average number of people in the South Gokwe region are affect-ed by a lack of adequate water supply and sanitation facilities: only 61 per-cent have access to safe water and adequate sanitation facilities are only available to 18 percent of the populace. In Zimbabwe, more than 4,000 chil-dren die as the result of cholera and diarrhea.
Photo: Laschet / Welthungerhilfe
The fact that Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) is committed to social welfare by securing ILO core labor standards, the payment of the minimum wage in the cotton ginning factories, and in fair contracts pays off. The latest CmiA verification report for 2014 shows that the partners in Africa clearly benefit from the initiative. The report is now published and gives an overview of the independent verification controls carried out by AfriCert, EcoCert and Control Union.
"Cotton made in Africa successfully campaigns for international rights to be applied to the people who produce the raw materials for our clothing, namely the cotton farmers and workers in the cotton industry in Africa. Our standard works to the advantage of hundreds of thousands of smallholder families in the cotton growing regions and the environment," said Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation.
In addition to ecological concerns, such as the general ban of genetically modified seed, to cut down primary forests or the encroachment on conservation areas, CmiA works to promote fundamental social aid. CmiA cotton is grown and processed in the manufacturing companies in Africa – the ginning factories – in conformity with the requirements of the international core labor standards (ILO). The workers in the ginning factories profit from e.g. the right to bargain and their freedom of assembly. The smallholders who have joined the Cotton made in Africa initiative are paid in due time for their crops, as stipulated in the requirements of the CmiA standard. Cotton made in Africa farmers decide at the beginning of every season whether they will grow cotton again and, before they do so, they are informed by the local cotton companies of the anticipated costs and prices. This transparency establishes trust on both sides. The smallholders, particularly those in rural Africa, have precious few reserves. In order to be able to make the necessary investment at the beginning of any given season, the smallholders benefit from pre-financing. Therefore they do not need to take out loans which can push them over the edge financially. The statutory minimum wage is paid at all the ginning factories where the cotton is further treated – and at 16 out of 18 of the cotton companies which process CmiA cotton, the workers are paid above the statutory minimum.
Cotton made in Africa insists on systematic training so as to ensure that many smallholders have the chance to learn efficient and sustainable cotton growing methods. The latest results show that the approach is working: Just 15% of the smallholders in some regions were storing the crop protection containers correctly in 2013 but that figure has now risen to over 50%.
By the end of 2014, over 440,000 smallholders had benefited from the sustainability standards applicable to CmiA and – since the end of last year – to CmiA Organic. They produced over 360,000 tons of raw cotton with the Cotton made in Africa seal of quality. Three more cotton companies have been partners of the CmiA initiative since the start of 2015, extending the reach of Cotton made in Africa to over 650,000 smallholders in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Get to know more in the Aggregated CmiA Verification Report.
Clean drinking water and proper sanitation are taken for granted in many parts of the world – but in rural Africa they are precious commodities. OTTO is intent on providing the people in the Cotton made in Africa growing regions with access to clean water and hygienic living conditions with immediate effect and is working towards achieving this aim in cooperation with the Aid by Trade Foundation, Care Mozambique, the Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH (DEG) with funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and from the cotton trading company Plexus. The total amount being invested in Mozambique by the partners is 300,000 euro.
In the last year alone, OTTO used 1,350 tons of CmiA cotton in its textiles. This corresponds to 33% of their own brands, and the trend continues upwards. From now on, the company is also working on the ground to support the people in the African cotton growing regions of Cotton made in Africa. The joint project "Drop for Life" is a mouthpiece for the partners who are advocating improved water supply, sanitation and hygiene conditions for the rural population and are reaching up to 30,000 people in Mozambique.
Wells and sanitary facilities will have been constructed in at least 16 villages in the Cabo Delgado cotton growing region in Mozambique by mid-2016. Health promotion programs will help to raise awareness of health issues among the local population. The people will learn the importance of clean drinking water and proper sanitation as well as how to build and maintain their own sanitary facilities. Specially appointed committees will make sure that the water points and latrines are used effectively and will liaise with the local village residents.
"The "Drop for Life" project initiatives are aimed mainly at women as they make a major contribution towards improving the living conditions of the rural population. They are the ones who can advocate the importance of clean drinking water and sanitary facilities in their families. So women are accorded a key role in this project," said Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation. Anja Dillenburg, Head of Corporate Responsibility at OTTO also emphasized this point, adding, "when I was out in rural Africa, I noticed that the women and girls are responsible both for the water supply and for the care of family members. In order to fetch water, they often have to walk many kilometers several times every day. Many illnesses are also caused by poor sanitation and lack of access to clean drinking water. Therefore we ensure that the women are relieved of some of the daily burden and that there is a general improvement in the quality of life for the local population."
Get to know more about it on our project site: Water and Sanitation Project Mozambique.
Approximately 5,400 smallholder farmers from Uganda are now benefiting from the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative. This is the result of the successful verification of the Western Uganda Cotton Company (WUCC) and the cooperating cotton farmers. As the largest cotton initiative in Africa, CmiA is now also engaged in improving the living conditions of Uganda's smallholder farmers and their families through sustainable cotton farming.
"We are delighted to be able to cooperate with smallholder farmers from Uganda and to assist them with training as well as the creation of a demand alliance for their cotton with the CmiA seal. This benefits local people and is a considerable success for our foundation with Uganda becoming the ninth country from Sub-Saharan Africa where we are actively supporting sustainable cotton farming and the rights of local farmers," explains Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Foundation. As partners of CmiA, local farmers receive regular training on agricultural and business topics. They also benefit from reliable contracts and prompt payment for their harvest. With its market-oriented approach, the foundation also aims to improve the competitiveness of cotton from Uganda.
Nearly 80 per cent of Uganda's population works in agriculture. This makes cotton one of the main sources of income in the country's rural regions. By establishing a sustainable basis for the cultivation of the 'white gold' for both people and the environment, Cotton made in Africa is making a significant contribution towards the fight against poverty and offering a reliable livelihood to Uganda's smallholder farmers. AbTF will also be taking a further decisive step in Uganda shortly: Through its cooperation with the recently founded company Fine Spinners, Uganda's first fully integrated textile company, CmiA cotton is expected to form the basis for fully integrated textile production from the cotton field to the final product - cotton and textiles made in Africa.