The Hermes Logistik Gruppe Germany (HLGD) is the cotton initiative's Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) newest partner. Since November, the company expects to outfit its 13,000 parcel delivery staff in Germany with cotton made according to the environmental and social standards of Cotton made in Africa. Hermes and CmiA will thus support around 475,000 CmiA cotton farmers who produce the raw material on the African continent using sustainable methods.
By entering into the cooperation, Hermes has fundamentally switched to using exclusively Cotton Made in Africa cotton. The first delivery of CmiA textiles has been in use at Hermes parcel service since the end of November. Roughly 30,000 items in the CmiA label are already complementing the versatile outfits of the Hermes delivery staff in the current holiday shopping season.
"We are pleased with the successful start of the cooperation," says Dr. Philip Nölling, CFO of Hermes Logistik Group Germany. "The initiative will pay directly to our sustainability program that has been in development at Hermes since 1986. This includes the high quality outfits worn by our delivery staff which must satisfy the daily high demands placed on textiles in terms of protection and comfort. Thanks to Cotton made in Africa, we receive a raw material that has been reliably produced under strict social and environmental conditions."
By implementing sustainable cultivation conditions in the Cotton made in Africa standards, CmiA cotton is clearly better ecologically produced than conventional cotton. When broken down, this means that for every t-shirt, CmiA saves around 1,500 liters of water from the rain-fed crops. Under the growing conditions, this also means that smallholder farmers achieve a higher yield and thus a higher income.
Lingerie specialist Gerhard Rösch supports the Cotton Made in Africa initiative (CmiA) for the first time with its 2014 fall/winter collection. The never out of stock (NOS) collection will be available worldwide starting from August 4, 2014. The long-established textile company from Swabia has been a partner of CmiA since June 2013 to focus on sustainably produced raw materials.
Starting August 2014 Rösch will intregrate a new NOS collection as a mix and match group in single jersey 100 percent cotton, made from CmiA yarn. The line will be offered in four colors, comprised of eight models and will be available worldwide. By using cotton yarn from the CmiA initiative, Rösch will support the cultivation of sustainably produced cotton in Sub-Saharan Africa. A specially designed hang tag on the product informs consumers about Cotton made in Africa.
"We are working intensively on using sustainably produced material for our collection. Through our partnership with the Cotton Made in Africa initiative and thanks to our demand, we will be able to support the African cotton farmers. This is a win-win situation both for us as well as for the smallholders," said Andreas Söffker, Managing Director of Gerhard Rösch. "The company has been increasing its efforts in developing sustainable product lines since the end of 2012. In addition to its cooperation with CmiA, the Saba project in China, from which the organic silk collection emerged, is already an integral part of the company philosophy. CEO Arnd-Gerrit Rösch explains, "With our commitment to African smallholder farmers and their families, we emphasize once more the significance of people as the center of our business activities."
This cooperation will enable Cotton made in Africa to expand its demand alliance. Currently more than 20 textile companies worldwide and 475,000 smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa participate in the initiative. Family members included, CmiA reaches over three million people in the poorest regions of the world.
Since 1949, the Gerhard Rösch GmbH has been run as a family business, currently in its third generation. Gerhard Rösch GmbH has received numerous awards from both the federal and state governments for its family-friendly staff policy. With its brands Rösch Creative Culture and Féraud Paris, Gerhard Rösch GmbH is one of the leading German lingerie and swimwear manufacturers. More than 3,000 customers have trusted its quality fashion made in Germany for over 60 years.
Representatives from the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) signed a long-term cooperation agreement in Paris today. By signing this agreement, both organizations underscore their goal to continue to improve the living conditions of smallholder farmers in developing regions through sustainable cotton production.
After a thorough benchmarking process between Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and the Better Cotton Standards, CmiA cotton will continue to be sold as Better Cotton to BCI members. The resources generated through this joint effort will be invested in improving the livelihoods of a large number of African smallholder farmers.
The initiatives are pursuing several goals with this cooperation: On the one hand, the aim is to increase the sale of sustainable African cotton on the world market along with the economic and environmental sustainability of smallholder farmers. On the other hand, the aim of the partnership is also to improve the living conditions of the cotton farmers and their families. The initiatives intend to work more closely together and develop common solutions especially for issues such as child labor, integrated pest management, and in system optimization between cotton supply and demand.
"Thanks to the close collaboration between Aid by Trade Foundation and BCI, participating smallholder farmers benefit through better market access and assistance and the textile industry benefits through better availability of sustainably produced cotton," says Christoph Kaut, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation.
The Aid by Trade Foundation and BCI will also work together to promote the continuous development of standards for sustainable cotton production. Patrick Laine, Chief Executive Officer at BCI expands: "With this partnership our respective members can benefit from the activities of both initiatives, improving access to the supply of sustainably produced cotton, and taking one step closer to sustainable cotton becoming a mainstream commodity."
This cooperation agreement will now extend the interim partnership already in existence since July 2012 on a permanent basis.
760 children from Benin will rejoice in being able to go to school. As part of the project "Cotton for sustainable education", initiated by the Aid by Trade Foundation and its partner Tchibo, five school buildings are now inaugurated. The project is also supported by the German Investment and Development Company (DEG), the German International Cooperation (GIZ), and local representatives of the cotton farmers.
Despite efforts to improve the school system by the Benin government, the poverty that is rampant in the country makes it difficult to establish a well-functioning school infrastructure including equipment and maintenance of many school buildings. Roughly one in every three children drops out of elementary school and can neither read nor write. This is due to the cost of schooling that many small farmers in rural areas often cannot afford. This is where the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative and Tchibo comes in.
Together for a better school infrastructure for children
CmiA works to improve the incomes of small farmers through training in sustainable and efficient farming methods as well as passing on business knowledge. The initiative also invests together with partners in the public and private sectors in building school infrastructures, such as in Benin. "Education is the driving force behind sustainable development. It is a pleasure to be able to contribute to this development with our partners and to provide a total of 762 children of CmiA cotton farmers even in remote areas of Benin the opportunity to receive an education through currently five new school buildings. Thanks to the project, the children no longer need to travel the long and tiring routes to school," said Christoph Kaut, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation.
In addition to the construction of schools, 11 newly constructed school cafeterias and gardens for growing mostly local vegetables provide children with regular meals. Light that is key to learning in the evenings or in the early mornings comes from solar lamps that replace costly and hazardous oil lamps. They are distributed through a local company and are certified by "Lightning Africa", an initiative of the World Bank. Since both school supplies and school uniforms are lacking, the students are provided with a total 10,000 books and 30,000 school uniforms. Students also receive much needed school supplies, such as English and French dictionaries, pens, notebooks, solar powered calculators, and solar lamps for home in the form of a scholarship.
„The most effective way of support is giving children as well as adults the opportunity to learn," Achim Lohrie, Director Corporate Responsibility at Tchibo explains. „By helping people to help themselves, the initiative contributes particularly to an increase of education and infrastructure in Benin. Tchibo is one of the biggest purchasers of Cotton made in Africa cotton. We will continue to support the initiative and offer Cotton made in Africa labelled products -- this is how we take responsibility for people and nature," Lohrie comments further.
"Education helps make a farmer be a better farmer"
Through radio broadcasts, posters, and meetings in the villages, more than 30,000 cotton farmers in rural areas of Benin learned about the importance of education for their children and about the school project of the Cotton made in Africa initiative. "Education helps make a farmer be a better farmer" I did not have the opportunity to go to school, but I realize that education means progress," says smallholder farmer Orou Yaya, who at 90 is regarded in the village as a wise man and was initially a critic of the school project. Barikissou Yinongui, cotton farmer and mother from Benin adds, "I send my children to school so they do not become "blind". I am illiterate and unfortunately never went to school myself. I do not want my children to remain "blind". I hope my children will grow up to make a difference by going to school."
The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) look to this year's annual UNESCO International Literacy Day on September 8 with a positive note: more than 5,300 smallholder farmers received a basic education in reading, writing, and arithmetic through the education project in Burkina Faso. The program exceeded its initial goal of teaching literacy to roughly 5,000 people by summer 2013.
Approximately 7,000 people enrolled in literacy courses in the Bazéga region, more than 6,000 participated in the courses, and more than 5,300 women and men (87.1 percent) successfully completed the courses by passing the final examinations. Women, in particular, benefit from the education project: More than half of the course participants enrolled and of the graduates were female. Kabore Germaine, the wife of one of the cotton farmers from Kuizili and mother of four, explained the advantages: "After two years, I can now read and write Moré. It's very important for my business to be able to do arithmetic. Now, I can go back and reread the recommendations I get on my family's health in my notes and pay more attention that my children regularly go to school." In addition to the courses, all teachers were provided with the opportunity to receive further education and training in pedagogy during the project.
Welthungerhilfe and the non-governmental organization ORGANIC led the project on the ground -- in close cooperation with the Provincial Directorate of the Ministry of Basic Education and Literacy (DPEBA) and the cotton company Faso Coton. It has been co-financed by Otto Österreich and Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG).
Originally scheduled to run three years, the program was extended for ten months due to the widespread interest by cotton farmers and commitment by OTTO Austria: "As a company it is important for us to act sustainably, and to offer support on a long-term basis. We consider the education project in Burkina Faso as a first phase in development cooperation in education. We will continue our commitment in 2014 together with the Aid by Trade Foundation--how and in what form it will take shape exactly is currently being explored by the organization's expert on site," explains Georg Glinz, Head of Marketing at OTTO Österreich.
Illiteracy has a negative impact on the socio-economical development in many West African countries: In Burkina Faso, roughly 78 percent of the adult population can neither read nor write. At the same time, cotton production is the heart and hope for the country's economic development because about 18 percent of people live from the cotton production. Education is thus a key factor to establishing sustainable farming practices and therefore improve the living conditions of cotton farmers and their families.
British peer of the realm Baroness Lola Young joined the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) Board of Trustees on June 1st, 2013 and participated in her first board meeting Wednesday, June 12th. Led by AbTF's founder Dr Michael Otto, the Board meets twice a year to ensure that the foundation's overriding goals -- improving socio-economic living conditions in Africa and promoting environmental conservation -- are being successfully met. Baroness Young has already been active on behalf of the Foundation and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) Initiative as ambassador in Great Britain since February 2012.
Lola Young works tirelessly throughout the world to promote the production and consumption of sustainable fashion. "Joining the board is a chance for me to be even more involved in the work of the Aid by Trade Foundation," Young noted. "Since I visited Zambia in 2011, it has become even clearer to me why it is so important to fight for sustainable raw materials in fashion. Even small changes in the way consumers and producers think can have a positive and very concrete effect on the lives of local people." The Aid by Trade Foundation is making an important contribution here.
The British peer of the realm accepted an invitation by the Aid by Trade Foundation to attend a stakeholder conference in Zambia in October 2011. There she learned about the work done by the AbTF and its CmiA Initiative, and also got to know a few African farmers. The visit convinced Young to come on board as the Foundation's ambassador and support the Initiative.
Lola Young has been an independent Member of the House of Lords since 2004. She founded and heads up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion. Baroness Young is also a member of the Member of the House of Lords EU Committee on Foreign Affairs. On the Aid by Trade Foundation Board of Trustees, she serves with leaders from environmental organizations, scientific institutions and the business community.
More information on the AbTF Board of Trustees here.