The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), have signed an interim partnership agreement that should see increased effectiveness and efficiency in promoting greater sustainability to African smallholder farmers as well as delivering sustainable solutions for the textile and fashion industry in Europe and North America.
CmiA focuses on improving the living conditions of smallholder cotton farmers in Africa, while BCI does the same with both smallholders and large producers globally. As both initiatives have a mandate of improving ecological, social and economic conditions in the cotton industry, and share complementary approaches, collaborating made good sense.
The 18-month interim agreement commits the partners to establish "sound structures on both sides, allowing for an optimum exchange of views, ideas and issues of special interest". Among other things, these special interests cover the fight against child labour, delivering Integrated Pest Management (IPM) more effectively, and developing pragmatic systems to connect supply with demand.
The partnership is already yielding results, as BCI and CmiA are immediately offering an attractive way for BCI members to procure CmiA cotton. As of 1 July 2012, CmiA verified cotton (from the 2012 harvest onwards) can be sold as Better Cotton. Providing an excellent proof of concept, this offer will also appeal to those in the industry who have been seeking greater volumes of Better Cotton from Africa. Christoph Kaut, Managing Director for AbTF, highlighted that this would not only "provide immediate exposure to new markets for CmiA and Better Cotton, but would also lead to greater efficiencies and delivers benefits for the African smallholder cotton farmers".
The collaboration between BCI and CmiA further defines activities that include an exchange on subjects like impact assessment, verification and financing models. The hope on both sides is that these are the first steps on a much longer journey to bring greater sustainability to the cotton industry.
Lise Melvin, Executive Director of BCI, underlining Africa's important role in the goal of making Better Cotton a mainstream commodity, promised that "we will always remain committed to ensuring the future of more sustainable African cotton and improving farmers' lives and their environment".
Together with renowned photographer Albert Watson, the Cotton made in Africa Initiative presented a preview of the Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa exhibition in Hamburg yesterday. In the EAST Hotel, viewers accompanied the artist on his journey through the West African country and enjoyed insights into the Benin way of life.
The presentation given by Albert Watson and Tina Stridde, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, took visitors on a trip through Benin. Making-of photos depicted some of the team's experiences and the individual stops along the two-week trip, ranging from their arrival in Cotonou, a visit to a local king and a festival with the Peuhl people, to interactions with the cotton farmers who work with Cotton made in Africa. Watson's impressive photographs show day-to-day life in Africa from the legendary fashion and celebrity photographer's perspective.
Albert Watson was especially moved by the people he met on his travels: "The people were wonderful. I was particularly touched by how much energy the inhabitants of Benin emit - it was truly astonishing since the country and its people are really very poor. Experiencing and photographing their pure joy in life was a wonderful experience for me."
The photographs taken in Benin tell the stories of the Cotton made in Africa farmers who are the heart of the initiative, as curator Ingo Taubhorn emphasised: "With this exhibition, we want to communicate an impression of the initiative's work. I would like visitors to approach the CmiA with a different awareness and recognize the initiative outside the exhibition as well."
Albert Watson travelled through Benin for two weeks in December to portray the smallholder farmers who work with CmiA. The Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa exhibition will open on September 14, 2012 in the House of Photography in the Deichtorhallen Hamburg. In addition to photos from Benin, some of Watson's unpublished work will also be on display.
For all the press information regarding the event and additional images of Benin by Albert Watson, please visit our project area.
About the exhibition
The Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa exhibition will take place from September 14, 2012 to January 6, 2013 in the Deichtorhallen Hamburg House of Photography. The exhibition consists of two parts: at its heart are the photographs Albert Watson took during his trip to Benin in December 2011. These depict the smallholder farmers associated with the Cotton made in Africa initiative and the world they live in, portraying the initiative's social impact. The accompanying retrospective includes never before shown vintage and Polaroid material from the renowned fashion and advertising photographer. In addition to Cotton made in Africa demand partners Otto and Tom Tailor, the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) is also an important supporter of the photo project Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa.
The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) is expanding its network in Great Britain: Baroness Lola Young has come on board as the foundation's ambassador. The parliamentarian from the British Upper House wholeheartedly supports sustainable fashion from Africa. Effective immediately she will promote the foundation's initiative Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and its work in the British Isles.
Back in December 2011, the Aid by Trade Foundation presented its initiative Cotton made in Africa at an informational meeting chaired by Lola Young in the House of Lords. The foundation'sgoal is to helppeople help themselves through trade. To this end, its initiative Cotton made in Africa creates an international Demand Alliance to buy sustainably produced cotton from currently around 230,000 African smallholder farmers. As ambassador, Baroness Young will advocate for the interests of AbTF and CmiA in future. "The issue of 'ethical fashion' is close to my heart and I see Cotton made in Africa's work as very valuable and most impressive. I am really looking forward to supporting this dynamic initiative in the British markets and I hope I can make a small contribution towards fighting poverty in sub-Saharan Africa," says Baroness Young
In October 2011, the Aid by Trade Foundation invited Lola Young to attend the foundation's annual stakeholder conference in Zambia. She learned about the work of the AbTF and CmiA and visited cotton farmers and a ginnery. "We can talk all we like about fair trade, water usage and ecological impact. When you meet the people who are experiencing change, who raise your awareness of how precious water really is and explain how a dry period with low cotton yield forces a family to live on just one meal a day, your efforts are no longer abstract. They become very concrete. Talking to the people there about the challenges they face was a new and enriching experience for me."
Lola Young has been a crossbench peer in the House of Lords since 2004. She is currently setting up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethical Fashion. Her focal points are art and culture, caring for children and young people, mental health and equality. Baroness Young is a member of the EU Committee for Social Policy and Consumer Protection and in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Prior to her career in politics, she headed the cultural division of the Greater London Authority. In 2011 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire.
The Cotton made in Africa Initiative (CmiA) supports 25 women's cooperatives in northern Côte d'Ivoire. Inside one year, 1,250 women and 12,500 family members are set to profit from financial start-up aid in cooperation with the German Investment and Development Company (DEG) and the Ivoire Coton cotton firm. The funds will help the women take a step towards financial independence. A social media campaign organised by the C&A fashion company is the driving force behind this project.
In many parts of Africa, patriarchal social structures in which women are primarily responsible for supplying families with food prevail. Many Ivoirian women are organising into cooperatives independently of their husband in hopes of increasing their financial autonomy and self-reliance. In groups of 50 to 100 members, they plant vegetables and rice, raise livestock and sell their products at the market. This income gives them some economic freedom and ensures their families have access to enough food.
In this new social project, Cotton made in Africa is consciously interfacing with these local structures. To strengthen the role of women, 25 women's cooperatives in the Boundiali region in northern Côte d'Ivoire will receive a financial subsidy. "We will use the money to buy more agricultural equipment, high quality seeds and -- if needed -- fertilisers, and we will produce compost soil", says Karidja Thomas, chairwoman of the cooperative Djiguiya Kabada. Also, training is offered to provide the women with the business knowledge they need in areas such as how to organise a company well and conduct successful negotiations. Currently every woman who is a member of a cooperative earns around 77 euros a year. The new project will add an additional 45 to 70 euros per year in future. This will considerably improve the living conditions of these women and their families.
James Shikwati, a member of the Aid by Trade Foundation Board of Trustees: "80 percent of all agricultural goods in Africa are produced by women, yet they earn only 10 percent of the income. African women are more than just the backbone of food production though; they make a considerable contribution to the cohesion and well-being of entire families. Supporting them makes good socio-economic sense, especially given the fact that they have been largely ignored for a long time."
Cotton made in Africa's participation in this project was made possible by C&A, one of the initiative's demand partners. In a Christmas cam-paign in December 2011, the fashion company called upon its social media community to select from three social organisations. CmiA took the lead with a clear margin and can now use the prize money to support the women's cooperatives in Côte d'Ivoire.
To date Cotton made in Africa has initiated four public private part-nership projects with a focus on promoting the education infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa. The project in Cote d'Ivoire is the first explicitly directed at strengthening women's rights.
Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) welcomes a new project country in Southeast Africa: 75,000 smallholder cotton farmers in Mozambique will join and participate in the initiative. Mozambique, like the other project countries, numbers among the poorest and least developed countries in the world. CmiA's aim is to help people help themselves through trade, breaking the vicious circle of poverty and improving the living conditions of now more than 420,000 African smallholder farmers in six African countries.
Mozambique follows Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi and Zambia to become the sixth project country for Cotton made in Africa. Locally the initiative will collaborate with the cotton company Mozambique Plexus. Overall around 255,000 smallholder farmers and their family members will profit from this partnership. The initiative and its supporting organisation, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF), estimate 13,325 tons of ginned cotton from Mozambique in harvest season 2011/12. Christoph Kaut, Managing Director of the foundation and responsible for the development policy area reports: "Our goal is to fight poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. With the addition of smallholder farmers and their families in Mozambique, our work now reaches a total of over 2.6 million people and will produce an estimated 160,000 tons of ginned cotton this year. This means that around 15 per cent of all cotton produced in sub-Saharan Africa is already being sustainably cultivated in accordance with the CmiA standards."
Around 80 per cent of the population of Mozambique work in agriculture. Cotton, along with cashew nuts, sugar, shrimp and crayfish, numbers among the most important agricultural products. Although Mozambique is by now one of the fastest growing national economies in Africa, the country is still one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world. On the Human Development Index, the United Nation's prosperity indicator, this Southeast African country ranks forth from last. 55 per cent of the population live in absolute poverty; life expectancy is 50.2 years.
In cooperation with the Aid by Trade Foundation, OTTO Austria will support a school project in Burkina Faso starting in March 2012. The program will offer 5,000 African smallholder farmers who work with the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative basic education in the form of alphabetization courses. The aim is to kick off a sustainable process of development.
In honour of its 20th anniversary, OTTO Austria will be donating 0.50 euros for each item sold from its ECOREPUBLIC collection to the school project for a period of one and a half years. "We also want to excite our customers about this great project and promote the sale of sustainably produced textiles. We anticipate that more than 50,000 euros will go to the alphabetization program," explained Harald Gutschi, spokesperson for OTTO Austria management. The program receives additional support from the Deutschen Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) and Welthungerhilfe (WHH).
Illiteracy has a considerable negative impact on the country's socio-economic development, and is a concrete place to start: by summer 2013 around 5,000 men and women will have learned to read and write in a course in the Bazega Region (central south). This program is OTTO Austria's contribution to laying the groundwork for sustainable development for smallholder farmers and their families.
Social and ecological responsibly plays an important role for every member of the Otto Group. OTTO Austria has therefore focused on and sold sustainably produced textiles under the ECOREPUBLIC brand name for a number of years. Cotton produced by the Cotton made in Africa initiative is also used in production.
The Aid by Trade foundation created the CmiA in 2005 to improve the living conditions of African smallholder farmers. The initiative is creating an international demand alliance to purchase sustainably grown African cotton at market price. Additionally smallholder farmers profit from trainings that teach efficient cultivation methods and from public private partnership projects, such as the alphabetization project in Burkina Faso.